| by Linda Viertel |
It should come as no surprise to food-lovers in our region that Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, won the Best Restaurant Award at the annual James Beard Foundation Awards dinner in early May. Blue Hill’s famed chef, Dan Barber has received multiple James Beard awards including Best Chef: New York City (2006) and the country’s Outstanding Chef (2009). In 2009 he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. And, in 2014, he published his seminal book, The Third Plate – Field Notes on the Future of Food, which proposes a new way toward ethical, nutritional and delicious eating.
Barber’s mission has always been to bring the principles of good farming to the table, a mission he began years ago at his original Blue Hill Restaurant in Manhattan and continued to foster as a member of the Board of Directors at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agricultural. For Barber, a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City, dining is an educational experience and one which must take into consideration a healthy respect for the land, the farmers who tend that land, and livestock managers who sustain their animals ethically.
At Blue Hill, Barber is able to source from surrounding pastures at the four seasons Stone Barns farm, and he supplements these fresh kitchen basics with produce, fish, meats and grains from the Hudson Valley – as local as he can get. He creates his menu daily based upon what is freshest in the field and streams, seasonal, and at peak taste.
While Barber has traveled the world talking to growers, livestock farmers, olive oil producers and seedsmen, in fact, too many in the food world to count, he retains his American roots, much in the tradition of James Beard (1903-85) the noted cook, cookbook writer, food critic and bon vivant. Known informally as the “Dean of American Cookery,” Beard was an early champion of farmer’s markets and local products. His home in Greenwich Village was a lively focal point for the original generation of “foodies”- students, chefs, food critics, cookbook writers and beverage purveyors in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
In his honor, his home has been preserved and houses the James Beard Foundation, “to provide a center for the culinary arts and to continue to foster the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation presentation, and of course, enjoyment,” according to the Foundation. Beard wanted to change the way Americans cook and dine, so it is fitting that Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns should be the recipient of the James Beard Best Restaurant award this year. Both of their legacies in the food world and their tireless pursuit of culinary excellence will continue to have a memorable impact on the way we eat.