Farm to Table

You are currently browsing articles tagged Farm to Table.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Dan Barber of Blue Hill NYC and Blue Hill at Stone Barns for my radio show, Chef’s Story. It wasn’t the usual interview where I ask all about his childhood, background, influences etc. I dove right into thorny topics with him. Dan as you might know has written a seminal book, The Third Plate. It is unapologetic. It cautions, enlightens and instructs us on the dynamic and evolutionary trajectory our food system is on. It is as frightening and exciting as a Transformer movie.

Dan Barber, The Third Plate, photo of Dan: Mark Ostow, photos courtesy of Blue Hill at Stone Barns

One aspect of our talk really struck me and I want to share it with you. Vegetables are not benign to the earth. They need a lot of water, fertilizing and human labor. They take a lot of land. Dan is not an opponent of vegetables, but he is first and foremost a responsible guardian of the earth. He believes we can all live sustainably, if we live an educated, humbled and moderate life. We should understand not just the nutrients and calories in our food but what I will coin here, its earth factor (EF). What does it take from our earth to produce a tomato, a pound of beef, an acre of GMO corn?

Dan used the term ‘the tomato is the hummer of the vegetable/fruit world.’ It uses a massive amount of water: 13 gallons per tomato. So can we be righteous eating a tomato from drought stricken California? Over eating a marbled 16 ounce T- bone steak? Should we avoid both as excessive EF? Interesting.

I do think socially conscious people want to know what they are eating. And they have a right to know. But next to the ingredients and nutrition labeling, don’t we need and want to know the EF factor too? I would.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of the great benefits of a summer vacation is to combine a culinary experience with a ‘primo’ summer spot. I have been longing to take the perfect road trip and find the James Beard award winning chef, Melissa Kelly in Rockland, Maine. Down the road from Bowdoin College and past numerous outdoor shops selling colorful canoes, one comes upon Primo Restaurant perched above Rockland’s harbor nestled in acres of organic vegetable bliss.

Melissa Kelly

And of course, there you will find Melissa Kelly, a native of Long Island, NY and the wunderkind that dreamt all this up.  Retreating to Maine from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company Inn in the Hudson Valley, NY (where she earned her first James Beard Award in 1999), Kelly opened Primo in 2000, on a 4.5 acre farm. And there she defies the short growing season with a truly farm to table restaurant. In fact, we have to give her credit that she was doing the farm to table thing before it was called that or became the standard tag for a country restaurant.

I ate the most delicious salad, perfectly fresh swordfish and a berry-licious dessert. My companions devoured lobsters. After the meal we were allowed back in the kitchen and were given a tour by Chef herself. How impressive. I didn’t realize that not only does she raise her own chickens, but slaughters them too. There are few chefs that know how to slaughter a chicken! Melissa also made us tour her basement…actually it’s her modern day prosciutto curing cellar!  The hams hung side by side. Premiums bits with lesser cuts. Nothing, of course, is wasted.

I think a novel could be written about Melissa. The purity of her spirit, the level of innovation and the pure deliciousness of her food, makes her a heroine for me. It’s worth a trip. So make your vacation mantra: “Rockland Maine next year!”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I read William Deresiewicz’s New York Times article,  “A Matter of Taste”, which challenged the idea of food as art. It made me take a serious think on the subject. Hang on a bit, this will be a longer post than usual but a subject worth exploring. Here’s what Deresiewicz says on the subject:

Food is highly developed as a system of symbols. Proust on the madeleine is art, the madeleine itself is not art.

First, let’s define art. In searching on the internet for a usable definition I thought Ellen Dissanyake’s captured it for me: the expression of the thoughts of the artist are successful when it engages both the maker and the viewer and creates dialogues of wonder. Its subjective and stimulating ends seeks to enlighten and entertain.”

Dan Barber, photo by Susie Cushner

Let’s take a modern day “madeleine” and deconstruct it as art for Mr. Deresiewicz. It’s the lowly parsnip, in the hands of a culinary master and chef, Dan Barber. Dan is the Chef/Owner/Creator of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. A restaurant that creates a dialogue with the land and a chef that speaks to the seasons.

A parsnip is one of those vegetables that is relegated to the root cellar, a cousin to the turnip and a brethren in the circle of least likely to please winter veggies such as brussel sprouts and cauliflower. So what has Dan done with the parsnip? He’s put it center plate! But not just on a one-dimensional plane in a new recipe. Dan creates dishes that are complex and intensely involved with listening to the land while delivering taste on a celestial level. The parsnip in his hands engages us in a new way and stimulates us to think about the relationship between man, food and our physical surroundings. Its more intense depth of flavor, sweetness and deliciousness surprises us. And the beauty of its presentation not only pleases but shocks us. The story behind it makes us challenge our long held opinions. How did he do this with a parsnip?

Dan started by thinking about what he could serve his customers in February in the deep of winter. He is committed to being local and seasonal. He worked with his farmer, Jack Algiere to continue growing parsnips in the snow filled months. They harvest huge parsnips from the frozen ground and crack away the dirt. These parsnips are supersweet because the freezing temperatures concentrate the sugars, unlike fall harvested vegetables. Their post autumn size allows the parsnip to be reimagined. Dan roasts these parsnips whole. Then the presentation of this root vegetable main course is done with a bit of fanfare. The diner’s attention is riveted as the once lowly parsnip is paraded tableside and sliced as a steak, ready to be a hearty meal in the cold of winter. The parsnip is the center of the plate, the star of the meal. The concept of protein as main course is moot…not even missed.

Parsnip Steak and Beet Ketchup, photo courtesy of Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Does this not engage the diner in a new way? Does it not make her question the human/land connection? Does it not entertain in its deliciousness? Does it not give us a sense of wonder of how large our universe is and how limited we have been in harvesting our foods? Does it not change your relationship with the parsnip? Now a vegetable of preference but only in this new season, this new context. If the parsnip did not have a pleasure with it, an entertainment factor, the concept and recipe could be restricted to science and social issues….but precisely because it pleases in a sensual way, it qualifies on all counts….as a piece of art!

Dan’s work is important. So important that we are working with him on our new Farm to Table culinary program. It is important for our school to graduate not only the best chefs in the country. We also strive to be a breeding ground for culinary artists. Those chefs that engage both the maker and the diner and create dialogues of wonder.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

We are brimming with excitement at The International Culinary Center because we are introducing a groundbreaking Farm to Table program for aspiring chefs. At each of our campuses (New York and California) we have designed unique and compelling curriculums for career students who also want a deep understanding of responsible farming.

On the east coast, our course will focus on local, four season gardening, urban roof top gardening, ecologically sound dairy practices and other important product related issues. Among the field trips students will visit an urban roof top farm, Brooklyn Grange , a dairy farm, a North Fork vineyard and other model farm programs.

The highpoint of this course will culminate with an ICC exclusive, a one week total immersion program at The Stone Barns Center in Westchester, New York. Chef Dan Barber, a grad and James Beard Outstanding Chef, was chosen by David Rockefeller to create an educational haven for sustainable farm practices at his Westchester estate, Stone Barns. Chef Barber along with his Blue Hill team has received world class attention for their work. (Dan was chosen as one of Time’s most influential people).

Chef Dan Barber, Stone Barns Center

L: Adam Kaye, VP of Culinary Affairs, Blue Hill with students

Brooklyn Grange, urban roof top farm, field trip

Macari Vineyards, Mattituck, Long Island, field trip

Dan has designed a special course for our students to spend a week at Stone Barns and study everything from understanding soil to breaking down animals. We are thrilled to provide this exceptional educational experience for our students.

Our inaugural class begins on December 18, 2012. There is limited availablity, so enroll quickly if you are interested,! Take a peek at The International Culinary Center: Farm to Table.

At our west coast campus, we have designed an exciting course focused on the unique assets and bounty of the Pacific coast and California’s extraordinary growing seasons.

In designing this course we have tried to take full advantage of the diversity of farming in the state. From cattle ranches to the Monterey Aquarium, from a responsible industrial farm to the Zen Center at Green Gulch Farm, the ICC in conjunction with Karen Karp Resouces has created a dynamic and unique program for the ecologically responsible chef. Here is the exciting outline.

Core Issues in Agriculture and Sustainability

A hands-on, interactive, and practical introduction to core issues in agriculture and sustainability that links primary food production and sustainability principles to the learning objectives of the ICC culinary arts and kitchen management curriculum.

Students will learn:

  • How food is produced;
  • Culinary implications of agriculture production;
  • Principles of sustainable agriculture;
  • About claims & certifications;
  • About consumer expectations & concerns; and
  • A chef’s policy and advocacy platform

Through an introduction to the agricultural landscape, including vegetable production, fruit production, viticulture, animal product production, aquaculture, wholesale market, and public education.

The goal is for students to visit 6-10 sites over 5 days.  Below are confirmed sites and their focuses:

Monterey Bay Aquarium: marine biology, climate change and the marine ecosystem; principles of wild fish harvest and aquaculture production; environmental implications of wild fish harvest and aquaculture production

Love Apple Farms: small-scale, biodynamic, chef-centric farming, farm to plate

Alba Organics (Salinas Valley): organic; understanding/training farmers to become entrepreneurs; labor issues

Bolthouse (Salinas Valley): 2nd largest carrot producer in the U.S.; large-scale production – harvest to store, growing, processing; understanding soil issues

Bolthouse Carrot Farm

Ridge Vineyards (Cupertino): organic vineyard; viticulture; water use issues/biodynamic; understand grape harvest, post-harvest and production activities

Ridge Vineyards

San Francisco Produce Market: procurement, how food moves locally and globally; marketing food; advocacy; policy; consumer expectations; certification

Ferry Terminal Market: run by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable

If you or any of your friends are committed to working and understanding our land, this is the course for you.

Now I’ll get back to munching on my organic, Napoli carrot!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,