Chef Uses Farm-Fresh Food to Connect With Customers

"I love peanut butter ice cream that has been frozen a little too long. I love standing over the counter with 2-month-old, frozen, junky-junk ice cream," he said.

Even Acclaimed Chefs Have Doubts

But despite his devotion to food and his talent in the kitchen, Barber said he still isn't sure if this is what he wants to do with his life.

"It's exhausting work, it's a difficult lifestyle, and I come at it with some doubts, with a capital D," he said. "But what I do find fulfilling about cooking is this way of looking at it from the larger issues that surround cooking, which is where food is coming from. To the extent that one can sort of make this leap -- how we buy food affects very clearly how the world is used."

And while that may seem pretentious, Barber said there is validity to the chefs and patrons who believe food affects the world. And that is exciting for him to be able to work in an industry that effects that kind of change, even if it's on a scale as small as the 50 to 80 seats in his restaurants.

"It feels quite fulfilling to see the connections between how we buy food and what happens to open space, which my grandmother felt so clearly about? or what happens to? you know, how it affects people's health and happiness," he said. "All these things are largely connected around the dining table. And to me it feels quite rewarding and fulfilling to be a part of that."

But those doubts he spoke of? He says they vary by day. Barber doesn't have menus at the Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, but rather a list of ingredients from local farms that dictate what will be served that day.

"To some people those restrictions are delicious, exciting, provocative and, ultimately, really satisfying," Barber said. "But there are a large number of people who don't drink the Kool-Aid that way and my immediate reaction to that is, 'You just don't get it!'"

"But that's ridiculous because they're no less interested in food a lot of the time," he said. "It depends on how it's presented, it depends on what we're serving that evening, you know. I shouldn't be so quick to blame the people who are supporting this restaurant. So my doubts are dependent on my mood, right, like anybody else."

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