Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Day on the Farm

You know that old saying “You are what you eat”?  But what are you eating.  Have you thought about it?   

We’ve heard a lot in recent years about farm fresh restaurants and we’ve seen an increase in the number of farmer’s markets and community gardens.  At times, it seems like just a trend, but for one internationally known chef, it’s a way of life.  One that he hopes others will continue to learn about and embrace.

Dan Barber, of Blue Hill New York, is a well-known chef based in New York City.  That is possibly the last place you would expect to find one of the pioneers of the “farm-to-table” movement.  His inspiration stems from Blue Hill Farm in Massachusetts, which has been in Dan’s family for years. 

Dan is considered by some to be one of the top “celebrity chefs”.  In 2009, Dan was named the Nation’s Top Chef by James Beard.  He even dabbled in reality TV and was a guest judge on Bravo Channel’s Top Chef TV series. 

 In addition to receiving numerous culinary awards, Dan is quite an accomplished writer.  His articles have been featured in many fine publications, such as The New York Times, Food & Wine and Martha Stewart Living.  Some may remember a few years back, Blue Hill New York was even chosen as the spot for a seemingly impromptu date night by President Obama and The First Lady. 

But more important than the recognition and the rubbing of elbows with the rich and famous is perhaps getting his message out there.  Know what you are eating.  Then take it a step further.  Know what your food is eating.  Where is it coming from – do you know?  Do you care?  Our food, for the most part has become so over-processed and far from nature.  Why is that? 

Dan’s overall theme seems to be that of getting back to basics.  Back to a time when people knew their local farmers and cooked with the freshest most basic ingredients.  I wanted to reach out to Dan and ask him a few questions, but knowing that he has been interviewed by the who’s who in the culinary world was a bit intimidating.  So I decided to try something a little different.  A little more along the lines of "back to basics", if you will.

And so, I am pleased to bring you the interview of Chef Dan Barber by Mr. Adam Rapp, my eleven year old son:

Adam Rapp:  What is the easiest fruit and veggie to grow if you haven't done any fruit or veggie growing before?
Dan Barber:  It depends on where you're growing it. But I’d start with a carrot. In the Northeast, the winter frost makes them impossibly sweet.
AR:  Did you like to cook when you were a kid?  If so, what kind of stuff?
DB: The brookie.  Half brownie, half cookie.  My greatest invention.
AR:  Do you ever eat junk food?
DB: Not junk food, but late at night I tend to swipe sweets from the pastry station.  
AR:  How do you feel about kids menus in restaurants?
DB: Sometimes I crave the simplicity of kids menus, but I still wish they were more adventurous, and vegetable-friendly. 
AR:  Were you nervous when The President came to eat at your restaurant?  Did anything go wrong?
DB: We found out he was coming about 15 minutes before he arrived. But I still found time to be nervous. 
AR:   Do you think writing a cookbook for kids would be a good idea?  I do.
DB:  Absolutely. And it sounds like you should write one. 
AR:   Do you play any sports?
DB:  I played competitive tennis until I was 21. Now I run. 
AR:   Do you have a number one favorite dish to make?
DB:  How about pasta and tomato sauce? There isn't anything much better than that in the middle of the summer. 
AR:   What are some good snacks for kids to pack for school?  
DB:  Fruit and yogurt, and lots of gorp.  
AR:  My sister (Alexa, age 5) hardly eats any vegetables.  How do we get her to eat some?  
DB:  Come to Stone Barns (or visit another farm) and have her pick her own. She’s more likely not only to give one a try, but to enjoy it. 
 A big thank you to Chef Dan for his time and to Irene Hamburger, for all her help!  For more information about Dan Barber and the Blue Hill restaurant group, click here 
For more information about farmer's markets in NoVA, click here.