Meet Dan Barber

Meet Dan Barber

Eataly Magazine recently sat down with Chef Dan Barber, who shared his opinions on cooking, growing, and eating food.

Barber is an author, award-winning chef, and co-owner of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York.

Eataly NYC Flatiron had the pleasure of hosting the chef at our Birthday Bash a few years ago, a dine-around of our restaurants featuring guest chefs with cuisines across the world. Chef Barber represented American cuisine with a special vegetable-focused course (pictured below) that is as educational as it is delicious.

Dumpster Dive Vegetable Salad - courtesy of wastED

How does your dish for Eataly’s Birthday Bash, the wastED Dumpster Dive Salad, speak to your food philosophy?

The Dumpster Dive Salad is made with vegetable scraps, stalks, and outer leaves, all salvaged from the waste stream of a large-scale food processor. It was initially conceived as part of our wastED pop-up, but I think it speaks to a larger philosophy, which is about learning to make the most complete and delicious use of all our ingredients — and the larger Hudson Valley landscape.

What do you hope the Birthday Bash guests took away from the dish?

I’m not expecting people to go home and create a salad entirely out of scraps. But I do hope it inspired them to reconsider some of the ingredients we so often throw away. “Waste” is a subjective term; more often than not, it speaks to a lack of creativity on the cook’s part.

Why do you think education while dining is so effective?

It's education via hedonism. You don’t have to be an environmentalist or an activist to understand the satisfaction of good cooking.

In Italy, la cucina povera, or “poor cooking,” is a traditional style that follows many of the same concepts of wastED – all day-old bread crumbs and entrails. What’s your advice for newcomers to the pantry-foraging lifestyle?

Yes, exactly! This is not a new idea — all of the world’s great cuisines utilize creativity and technique to elevate "lowly” ingredients into something delicious and even iconic. So maybe my advice to newcomers is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Take inspiration from other cultures and cuisines.

Which three questions should home cooks and professional chefs alike ask themselves before going to the market?

We’ve become accustomed to asking a certain set of questions about our food: Is it organic? Is it grass-fed? Is it local?  That kind of farm-to-table approach is critical, but it doesn’t go far enough. It still allows us to cherry-pick whatever we most covet for dinner, when really we need to look toward the often-undervalued parts of our landscape, from soil-supporting crops like buckwheat or cowpeas; to bruised and fallen fruit; to uncoveted parts of the animal. That’s another way to think about “waste” — and it’s one we should all consider when we think about what’s for dinner.

Grazie, Chef Barber!

dan barber at eataly

Note: The featured image of Chef Barber is by photographer Noah Fecks; the image of the wastED Dumpster Dive Salad is courtesy of wastED.