Over the last few years, a new generation of chefs has been putting the spotlight on healthy, vegetarian meals. The goal is to make fresh, local, and seasonal produce the start of the show, prepared in a variety of ways, from simple to innovative.
Farm-to-table cooking is the name of the game in these restaurants. Whether they’re growing their own produce or teaming up with reliable organic fruit and vegetable suppliers, these restaurants are changing the way people eat for the better.
Chef Dan Barber, Blue Hill at Stone Barns
At acclaimed restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the brainchild of Chef Dan Barber, the process starts at genetics, where he teams up with local farmers to cultivate varieties of vegetables that are packed with flavor. With this, he shows people that vegetables, if grown and prepared the right way, can be as tasty as meat.
In his family farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, he continues to reinvent organic principles, where he focuses not just on flavor but also on managing the long-term health of the soil, and introducing diversity on the farm, maintaining ecological balance. Like other visionary chefs, he sees the natural world as a self-healing system that can nurture people, if allowed.
Sustainable Cooking at Chez Panisse
Founded by restaurateur and food activist Alice Waters and a small band of friends, Chez Panisse is an award-winning restaurant in Berkeley, California. While it began with serving classic French cuisine using California ingredients, the restaurant’s menu has evolved into what its founders envisioned it to be. It is now dictated by what’s fresh and in season, thanks to a network of nearby farms and suppliers, like the Green String Farm run by organic farming visionary Bob Cannard.
Chez Panisse offers a fine-dining experience with a set menu in its downstairs restaurant, while an upstairs café features the same local, organic ingredients but with a modestly-priced a la carte menu. The a la carte menu is affordable but isn’t cheap, but Alice Waters explained in an interview with Yale University’s Reflections that “When you have cheap food, it means someone isn’t being paid for his or her work, usually the farmer or the farmworker in the field. This is a social justice issue.”
Across the globe, there are many other restaurants putting organic produce, ethically-grown meat, and even heirloom cultivars center-stage. Talented chefs are continuously finding new ways to harness the flavor and full potential of each ingredient. Chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz of Central, an iconic restaurant in Lima, applies modern techniques to indigenous Peruvian ingredients. He’s as much an explorer as he is a chef, as he forages across Peru’s diverse terrain, from the coast to 5,000 meters above the sea, high up the Andes, for unique, wild ingredients.
Down under, Ben Shewry is bringing bush ingredients to the table at his restaurant in Melbourne. Eating at Attica is a unique fine dining experience, with native ingredients like bunya nuts, marron, and yam daisy replacing the staples caviar, foie gras, and lobster.
In the hands of visionary chefs, fresh, seasonal produce can turn into more than just a magnificent meal. It can also change the way you look at food.