Friday Five: Dan Barber’s Five Things to Give Up for Mother Earth


Friday Five series returns today with Dan Barber, chef and proprietor of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills. Stone Barns is only 45 minutes from Manhattan, but it might as well be a whole different universe. A model of self sufficiency and environmental responsibility, Stone Barns is a working farm, ranch, and a three-michelin-star-worthy restaurant. (Note to Michelin: limiting your guide to the five boroughs means you’ve missed out on perhaps the most interesting and unique restaurant in all of New York.)

Dan’s commitment to the environment is well known, but he is hardly a die-hard radical. He is a businessman determined to find a way to be both environmentally and economically sustainable – now that’s the way of the future. When I visited Stone Barns last September for my lovely birthday dinner, I was impressed by not only the beauty of the farm and the produce, but the massive scale of operation it takes to run that place.


Now, if I’ve painted him too much of a businessman for you, let me tell you another story. Before the meal Dan took us on a tour around the property. He insisted on taking us – with me in a lovely dress (read:freezing) and heels (read:@#$%) – way out of the way to show off his pride and joy, the compost pile. Compost field is perhaps a more apt description. Once you approach the vicinity you understand why it has to be so far out of the way. Use your imagination. Explaining the workings of the forklift compost turner and the rotation of the pile and the output that goes back into the field and the difference it’s made in the quality of his produce, all with the delight of a boy with a brand new Lego set, Dan was a man in his element, doing what he loves and fervently believes in. That compost pile is shit to you and me – pardon my French – but it is a whole different thing in the eye of the chef and proprietor of Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Given his pedigree and commitment, I asked him to suggest five things we should all give up out of respect for the earth. It’s a perfect question for my Friday Five series. Read it and think, and, most of all, do it.

Dan Barber’s 5 things to give up for mother earth

1) lists about things to give up

–better to make lists of things you should add to your meals, like raw milk cheese, pig parts other than loin and belly, local honey, pastured eggs, unpasteurized milk. With food, hedonism is the way to help mother earth.

2) the notion that gourmet food is elitist and effete, and cheap food is an inalienable right.

The fast food hamburger and fries guy is harder to feed than the gourmet guy–that is if you calculate the invisible costs cheap food imposes on our health (diabetes, obesity to name two) and our environment (soil loss and hypoxic zones)


3) Meat from herbivores that have ben fed a grain intensive diet.

We will look back on this in 50 years in the same way that we look back on farmers spraying DDT on their vegetable crops.

4) Bluefin tuna and farmed salmon

–all fish are not created equal. (for a list of sustainable seafood alternatives, see the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch List.

5) anxiety ridden eating

–it prevents happiness and hinders creative thought (and it’s rough on digestion)

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16 Responses to “Friday Five: Dan Barber’s Five Things to Give Up for Mother Earth

  • beastmomma said:
    February 1st, 2008 at 12:39pm

    I am really enjoying the Friday Five. These five tips are great!

  • darcy said:
    February 1st, 2008 at 4:07pm

    Pim, this is such a wonderful series! I respect Dan Barber so much for integrating the gourmet and the responsible. Thank you!

  • Asa said:
    February 1st, 2008 at 8:24pm

    Thanks for this great list (and the info on Blue Hill for those of us on the west coast).
    [The Monterey Aquarium link needs fixing — add the “http://”]

  • Charles Rosenberg said:
    February 1st, 2008 at 8:40pm

    How about liquid soap in plastic bottles, Saran wrap, aluminum foil, paper towels and paper napkins. I eliminated all of these things from my kitchen years ago and haven’t looked back. I know this is a bit contrary to suggestion # 1 above, but there are still too few people doing these basic things, especially when confronted with all the advertising for swiffers and the like.

  • jeni said:
    February 2nd, 2008 at 9:52am

    Pim – I love this Friday Five series. Dan Berber is inspiring. Thank you! The Slow Food LA Convivium sent out an email about your article and I am thrilled that this kind of information is getting spread around. We all need to encourage people to think differently about their food.

  • Jetset said:
    February 2nd, 2008 at 11:26am

    I really enjoyed the Dan Berber piece and accompanying photos. He has a great outlook and a beautiful farm. However, my meal at blue hill 09/07 was awful. The soup was bland and lackluster. All vegetable courses as well of the two meat courses were presented on the same dismal bed of faro. The duck was rubbery, overcooked and under-inspired. The wine, an oregon pinot, was excellent and the best part of the meal. I should’ve just ordered the bottle to go. I was so disappointed I nearly wept.

  • Kate said:
    February 2nd, 2008 at 3:19pm

    I really enjoyed this post – I love Dan and have seem him lecture on several occasions. What a great question to ask him, and what even great answers he provides =) Your photos are fantastic, too.
    A pleasure as always, Pim!

  • helen said:
    February 3rd, 2008 at 1:58pm

    This is a post about Dan Barber and his commitment to the environment and sustainable practices, NOT a forum to complain about your negative experience dining at his restaurant. If you’d like to share your thoughts with the chef, then send him a constructive email. A positive action should result in a positive response.

  • Olga said:
    February 4th, 2008 at 7:13pm

    Dan Barber has been a great inspiration for me, It is always stimulating to know about his work and thoughts.

  • Love Apple Farm said:
    February 4th, 2008 at 9:49pm

    I had the absolute pleasure of dining at Blue Hill at Stone Barns a year or so ago. It was an unforgettably fabulous meal. Everything was spot on – no complaints. Tramping through the fields, poking through their huge greenhouse, and admiring the ancient rock buildings all contributed to Dan Barber’s exquisite rendering of one of my best meals ever (behind Manresa, of course).

  • William said:
    February 5th, 2008 at 4:09pm

    I have to put in a positive word for farmed salmon, or more accurately for organic farmed salmon. Eating wild salmon is unnacceptable until stocks have built up, and salmon that are farmed without the use of pesticides or dubious feed have to be kept in large pens with fast flowing water, otherwise they don’t thrive, and are therefore both a delicious and environmentally sound alternative to wild. I would agree that standard farmed salmon are evil…

  • jen maiser said:
    February 8th, 2008 at 1:38pm

    Hi lady – this is such a great list. I am enjoying this series.

  • Tags said:
    February 12th, 2008 at 12:00pm

    You can also give up not reading Paul Johnson’s fabulous book “Fish Forever.”
    Even easier, just read the book.

  • Sara said:
    March 11th, 2009 at 6:31am

    I enjoyed this posting a lot. I love when people try to do better for the environment. I read about this on the blog when they talked about an organic winery which is also very unique. The more word that gets out about this the better

  • j rose said:
    March 20th, 2009 at 7:20pm

    thank you dan barber. five things for mother earth
    what a great idea
    j rose

  • risa mandell said:
    May 25th, 2009 at 8:31am

    Thanks for writing about this problem, endemic to industrial and so far, post-industrial society. Some people are struggling with what to turn to, for example, solutions to styrofoam cups at meetings – and then, to convince management to support the transformation to purchasing green supplies at a favorable cost.

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