With Thanksgiving on the horizon, it’s impossible not to think about the lore of the holiday in which the settlers and Native Americans gathered together with crops of their own growing to celebrate the New World with food. In that vein, I thought it appropriate to explore the resurgence of this trend in today’s society with a return of ownership in what has come to be known as “farm-to-table” cuisine.
In an effort to ensure quality and reduce the eco-footprint of importing foods, a new wave of “locavores” has taken over the way we approach restaurant food supply. This has brought with it a renewed sense of community not only between farmer and chef, but also consumer as well. A visionary in this genre of course is New York’s own Dan Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill restaurants. He gets his inspired and fresh dishes from local farms, primarily Stone Barns, around Westchester. Their mantra of “know thy farmer” brings pride and ownership to the restaurant process that others just cannot reach.
“The Stone Barns Center was conceived by David Rockefeller, who helped finance the initial $30 million construction budget, and also donated 80 acres of farmland, to create a grand experiment in the study and practice of sustainable local agriculture,” according to its site (1). The Center offers community outreach and education programs with Blue Hill as the only for-profit component. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that allows visitors to know exactly what they are eating from concept to practice to plate, as well we all should.
On the other side of the country this movement can be credited also to Alice Waters whose restaurant Chez Panisse in California was one of the first promoting organic and small farm products. She also started "edible education" programs that have stretched across the Berkeley school system, advocating health and combating childhood obesity. Waters follows the belief that “international shipment of mass-produced food is both harmful to the environment and produces an inferior product for the consumer” (2).
Since its ascent in popularity amongst chefs, this novel idea has been cropping up around the country from Washington to Texas to Georgia, all following in the footsteps of not only Barber and Waters, but also in the ever-present memory of the founders of this country. The true pioneers started from the ground up to sustain life in this country and build what we can now appreciate today. So when giving thanks this year, remember where it began and how eating used to be. And let us all give thought to community and quality in our own cooking so we may once again be proud to say “we are what we eat”.
For a list of the top farm-to-table restaurants across the country visit:
Written by Andrea Scalici