Madrid Fusión


Dan Barber: "Our new role is to promote a healthy and sustainable eating"


The chef seeks to reconnect with the land to cook with awareness.

One of the most repeated messages these days is to appreciate the work of independent producers and the need to value sustainable agriculture that produces a healthy and tasty product. From Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester County, Dan Barber is an iconic figure among those who believe, and there are more and more of them, that chefs need to be committed to the environment and to raising awareness about healthy, quality food. "Who, if not chefs, is going to spread this message? We have the credentials to link the environment with nutrition and the pleasure of eating. It is up to us to take on this responsibility. A responsibility that Barber has not abandoned even when the restaurant is closed. The two initiatives he has taken in the midst of the Covid-19 health crisis are proof of this.

The devastating effect that the crisis is having on the farmers around the chef and the need to keep part of the restaurant's team active, was an incentive for Barber, who set up ResourcED, a programme based on the creation of 'food boxes'. "We are no longer a restaurant, we have become a food processing centre". ResourcED is an initiative that stems from a stark reality: "about 40% of the farmers in our area will be bankrupt by the end of the year if things don't improve". With the creation of these 'food boxes', Barber has managed to "continue to buy from our main farmers and help the neediest people in our community" as the boxes are 'bought' as a donation for vulnerable groups. Each box contains ingredients and cooking instructions and, in line with Dan Barber's philosophy, the contents (meat, vegetables, fish, eggs or dairy products) are sourced from environmentally friendly sources.

In situations like this "it highlights the role that chefs and restaurants play in encouraging and promoting healthy food and preserving these farmers' networks by helping them to improve the quality of the products we buy from them". A project that the chef hopes "will inspire other colleagues in the sector".

Reconnecting with the land to cook with greater awareness

Some chefs who, due to the forced stoppage caused by the coronavirus, have found at this moment the opportunity to connect with the land. "Talking to cooks who were unable to work, they told me that they were on the internet all day. We couldn't allow these young minds to go to waste! The solution was quick and was offered by the agricultural director of the non-profit Stone Barns for Food and Agriculture, Jack Algiere, who gave three plots of land for the cooks to start planting. Social media did the rest. It went viral and now there are 2,000 chefs -from all over the world- who, in a more formal way, are participating in this Kitchen Farming initiative. "These gardens are going to be part of who they are, as people and as chefs, and of the concept of their restaurants. It is something that will be with them for life because once you commit to the land you establish a bond". An awareness that for Barber is essential, especially in times like these because "the pandemic has shown that the food system we have does not work and that it is necessary to support local farmers in order to achieve sustainable food".

According to Barber, chefs must be the first to rethink the food model that should prevail and they must advocate a gastronomy that is "healthy and exquisite at the same time". It is a whole. Without one, the other cannot exist. "The choices we make in our restaurants will decide the future of the food system and will then be passed on to the rest of the population. Chefs have the media impact, the knowledge, the respect of society. That is why, according to Barber, they have to get involved. A new role for a new era.




View more