Have you ever met someone and just sat back and thought, “Yep, I really like this person. I wish we could just hang out with a glass of wine and chat and eat and cook and play in the dirt.” This was my Monday evening.
First a little background on me and my personal opinions. I love local farms. I believe that a half dozen farm fresh eggs are worth more than 6 dozen from a factory farm. I believe real butter filled with fat is healthier than margarine. I believe sugar is safer than aspartame. I believe all food that is consumed as originally created and grown is far superior than anything science can create. I have marched against Monsanto and bought raw milk with the stealth of a back-alley drug deal.
All of this is to preface how excited I was to meet Dan Barber, chef and owner of Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. In addition to several other awards, the James Beard Foundation named him the top chef in America in 2009. He is also at the forefront of the farm-to-table and sustainability movements. All in all, he is exactly who I like to listen to so I was thrilled when Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeeshop was featuring him Monday, June 16th. (P&P often has really cool speakers and book signings scheduled so check out their events page.)
Now, I’ve also met several cocky and downright rude celebrity chefs. I understand that it takes a certain attitude and personality to succeed in the kitchen, but we all need a little humility at times so I wasn’t quite sure what I was walking into. Dan began by reading a bit from his new book “The Third Plate” telling a slightly embarrassing story of Gourmet reviewing him. He has an openness that makes you feel like you already know him, a dry wit that makes me feel like he would blend right in with my family, and a touch of cynicism that makes me want to joke around over a beer.
Through him speaking and the Q&A, I can’t wait to read “The Third Plate” and recommend you pick up your own copy. I love the point that seasonal, rotational, and local farming is better for the environment and produces a more nutritional product, but mostly, as a chef, I love that the flavor is superior.
I want to savor a deep green leaf from an heirloom iceberg lettuce that is simultaneously bitter yet sweet as opposed to the white and watered down versions found in the market. I want to bake with the buckwheat and mullet that nourish the soil. I want to tour the farms and kitchens at Blue Hill and Stone Barns. I want to experience the chef’s table and sample Dan’s creations. I can’t wait to try some Barber Wheat.