As I have become more and more depressed with thoughts of the anthropocene, Chef’s Table has oddly enough brought me relief. This Netflix original documentary series focuses on different chefs and their unique culinary perspective. In Season 1 Episode 2, Blue Hill, a farm to table restaurant with a one star Michelin rating, and its head chef Dan Barber are showcased because of the culinary excellence that arises from Barber’s environmental concern.
Blue Hill has two locations, one on NYU’s campus and another in upstate New York called Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It is here that Chef Barber utilizes ingredients from his own farm, truly an ecological masterpiece, to prepare dinner. Barber describes his early struggle to create a productive farm, a conflict that could only be solved with animals. Thus he decided to raise cows, but in order to further the development of the cows he needed chickens to spread their manure through the fields and thus enrich the soil. Other issues arose like the growing forest, so they raised goats as well, which led to the addition of more animals, and thus further improvement of the farm. Each part of the ecosystem makes the next part better, creating more flavorful ingredients for the restaurant.
This is the pinnacle of biodiversity in an industry dominated by large corporate farms that choose efficiency over quality and environmental health. Barber continues to support biodiversity in agriculture by encouraging the use of “rotation crops,” specimens that are planted in fields to nourish soil, as to allow sourcing farmers to veer away from chemical treatment of crops. Barber refers to this as “[giving] an economy to the farmer,” benefiting the world of agriculture, and once again the flavor of his food.
Chef Barber truly is making a difference in a system that has caused major damage to the Earth’s ecology, showing that there is hope. If improvement is possible in one industry, it is possible in another, thus we have no reason to sulk, but rather persevere.