James Beard Award-winning chef Dan Barber of New York's Blue Hill restaurant is looking to take the farm-to-table movement one step further with the introduction of "The Third Plate."
"The Third Plate" is not just the title of Barber's new book - it's a way of eating that, Barber says, is more sustainable and more delicious.
"We tend to reduce complicated ideas about agriculture and what we should be eating into labels like local and organic and biodynamic and kind of bumper sticker ideas," Barber said. "What I'm trying to do is bring these very important ideas together in a pattern of eating."
One example Barber gives is that of farmer Klaas Marten, who grows "the most delicious wheat" Barber has ever tasted.
On a visit to the farm, located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Barber noticed that the fields weren't filled with wheat - instead, there was buckwheat, barley, millet, legumes and more-- all crops used to enrich the soil so it's prepped and ready for the wheat to be planted.
"What I realized standing there was, I wasn't supporting any of these other crops. I was only supporting the cream of the crop," Barber said. "That's an analogy for what we need to do as we look forward to a more delicious future."
Inspired by these less-coveted crops, Barber set out to incorporate the ingredients into his menu. One of his creations is the "rotational risotto," which consists of various grains and beans instead of rice.
"It's a beautiful dish and it gives people an association to an Italian dish and a delicious homemade comforting dish, but it's made with what the landscape, the landscape where we're sitting, can provide and provide really well for us," Barber said.
Barber, who co-owns Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns with his brother and sister-in-law, doesn't take credit for formulating the "third plate" theory, but says he's merely reporting on it. He says he's seen a great response from the culinary community and other chefs are realizing that paying closer attention to the agriculture system will provide the "best flavor" for customers.
"It is the most exciting time to be a chef and to be an eater because the democratization of good food is everywhere," Barber said. "The ultimate lesson of the third plate and of all our good eating is that when you eat truly good food, truly delicious food, you end up supporting that kind of landscape we all want to live in."