Certain chefs define trends. El Bulli’s Ferran Adria popularized molecular gastronomy; Rene Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen put foraging on the map. For farm-to-table, the pioneer was Dan Barber. His restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns (and Manhattan’s Blue Hill) spearheaded farm-driven menus throughout the Hudson Valley and across the country. But Blue Hill at Stone Barns is more than just a restaurant. Barber co-owns and manages the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture in Pocantico Hills—a working farm that includes orchards, livestock, honeybees, and a 22,000-square-foot greenhouse—which produces much of the food served in the restaurant.
It’s Barber’s work in the kitchen and on the farm that’s earning him accolades—this year, Blue Hill at Stone Barns won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant and made its first appearance on the highly regarded list “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.” (He’s also appeared on Time magazine’s 100 most influential people list and was appointed to Obama’s Presidential Council on Physical Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.)
The Stone Barns Center is also Barber’s platform for education, which focuses on how we produce food in this country and putting the emphasis back on flavor and sustainable farming. That emphasis on building “true Hudson Valley cuisine” was a focus of this spring’s Netflix documentary series, Chef’s Table, which featured Barber: “I want people to leave here and feel like they’ve connected with nature,” he says.