Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Dan Barber

Ethics, passion and transformation are three words that define the work of Dan Barber. For a long time, I'd heard of his family's restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and the surrounding organic farm in New York, but I finally visited it in October 2008. To go there is to see Barber's soul.

One of the ways humans communicate is by way of the kitchen, and this is what Barber, 39, does through his dishes. But he is something more than just a chef. His ethics — conservation, the use of vegetables and animals that are grown and raised within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture — are a model for all chefs and all those who love good food. Everything he does in the organic world is authentic and truthful. There is no pretense. When he offers you an appetizer composed of simple vegetables dewy with liquid salt, he is saying something to you. He converses with one of the things that I love in gastronomy: the essence of the produce. These are culinary preparations that retain the soul of the food. You discover and decipher the workings of that language — sometimes simple, sometimes complex — during the meal. It is a playful dialogue because we enjoy eating it.

At my restaurant elBulli, we are dedicated to creating avant-garde cuisine, and some people think Barber and I are from opposing worlds. But it is not that way at all. Barber's work is pure avant-garde. He is constantly looking for new ways to use food, and I know his cuisine will continue to evolve. The most difficult thing about cooking, even if you are a very creative chef, is having a recognizable style. But that is what you discover when you eat at Blue Hill. You taste a distinctive, personal style — the style of Dan Barber. Not everyone can have the resources he has. But once you have been there, it will inspire you.

Adrià is the chef of the acclaimed elBulli restaurant in Roses, Spain. He was named to the Time 100 in 2004