Dan Barber
chef Dan Barber

Dan Barber

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 2, 2005

Blue Hill is named after chef/owner Dan Barber’s grandmother’s farm in the Berkshires. The restaurant opened in downtown Manhattan in 2000, celebrating Hudson Valley farming and the agricultural traditions of the New York region. He wanted to create a neighborhood restaurant that offers a humble, local experience.

Dan also wants to create a restaurant that supports and promotes a sense of community, and to serve dishes made from ingredients that we would want to eat at home and feel comfortable feeding our children. Supporting local farmers is important to Dan, as well as knowing where the ingredients come from and how they are grown. Just as Dan trusts the local farmers, he wants his customers to be able to trust him and feel secure about the food they are eating.

There is a didactic agenda behind the food served at Blue Hill; Dan wants his customers to be aware of what they are eating and where it comes from. He is serious about educating his customers. This is not done in a drab, classroom lecture type of way, but through personal service and a dynamic, ever-changing menu. Servers at the restaurant are well trained to answer questions about their dishes. The restaurant can’t promise set menus since it’s all dependent on what is available that day, but this adds an element of surprise for the daily menu and makes it all the more fun.

The success of Dan’s mission at Blue Hill restaurant in Greenwich Village caught the attention of David Rockefeller, who wanted to take the idea further by opening a restaurant in an environment that could promote sustainable agriculture. The site he chose was his family’s Pocantico Hills estate near Tarrytown , New York . The co-venture opened as Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the spring of 2004. The restaurant gets most of its vegetables and meats from the estate’s farm and from nearby farmers.

Dan juggles his time between the two restaurants and when he leaves Blue Hill Restaurant he leaves it in the very capable hands of chef Juan Cuevas. Juan is extremely detail-oriented and follows Dan’s lead as a member of the “clean plate club.” When a plate returns to the kitchen with remnants of food, he takes care to find out if there was something displeasing about the dish. Dan and Juan question not out of egotism but in order to make sure the diner will enjoy his next experience. It is out of love for what they do that the quality and standard for which Blue Hill is so high.

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