Chef Dan Barber – Beyond “Farm-to-Table”

Blue Hill at Stone Barns makes the list for any foodie’s dream destination restaurant set inside a beautiful barn on a working farm in upstate New York. But it’s not just about the stunning setting in Pocantico Hills that’s propelled the restaurant from No.48 to No.11 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants this year.

Its simple, delicious, farm-fresh food that is transformed into ground-breaking dishes by talented chef Dan Barber is the game changer. Passionate about minimising food waste, Barber has now hosted two editions of his wastED pop-up, creating a series of special dinners and lunches using ingredients that would normally go to waste.

Aspire Lifestyles catches up with Chef Barber post-awards to find out more about his passions and his two restaurant babies.

Aspire Lifestyles: What are the differences between Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Blue Hill?

Chef Barber: The restaurants feel very individual to me: right hand, left hand. Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located on an 80-acre working farm and education centre, north of New York City. In place of a traditional menu, we serve a multicourse tasting that’s meant to tell the story of the farm and the surrounding landscape. That’s true for Blue Hill New York’s menu, as well, but the style there is more casual. The restaurant is tucked away on a small street in Greenwich Village, which gives it a cosier, neighbourhood feel.

Aspire Lifestyles: How much of the daily menu is planned vs. taking into consideration of guests’ likes and dislikes?

Chef Barber: We create menus around the day’s harvest and around the diner too. So there’s a lot of spontaneity—and a little chaos—during service. The best stuff we do comes out of these moments, when our backs are up against the wall a little bit, and we’re creating new dishes for a particular table.

Aspire Lifestyles: Your products are very local. How much are you influenced and inspired by other cuisine types and how do you incorporate them into your menus?

Chef Barber: America is sort of a culinary anomaly, because we lack the kind of distinct cuisines you find in France, or Italy, or China. So I try to take inspiration from those food cultures—systems where people’s ways of eating and farming coevolved. The challenge then becomes how to apply that idea within the context of the Hudson Valley.

Aspire Lifestyles: You are passionate about food waste. What are little tips everyone can do to minimize food waste in day to day life?

Chef Barber: Subscribe to a CSA and, more importantly, challenge yourself to use every ingredient you’re given in the box—even the scraps. It will force you to think more creatively—and more resourcefully—in the kitchen.

Also, try to keep a running inventory (even a mental one) of the ingredients in your refrigerator, organized by when they need to be used. That’s what many professional kitchens do, and it helps to dictate the next week’s menu.

Aspire Lifestyles: Speaking of other cuisine types, what are your favorite areas to travel? Are you able to tell us about any favorite restaurants and chefs?

Chef Barber: This spring I was in London for our wastED pop-up, so at the moment I’m pretty biased toward the UK. I spent most mornings at La Formagerie or 26 Grains.

Aspire Lifestyles: What are your bucket list restaurants?

Chef Barber: Right now it would be Narisawa, Quintonil, and Vicia in St. Louis, which my former chef de cuisine just opened.