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Chefs and the Food Movement

July 11, 2011

The August issue of Food & Wine features a brief interview with Chef Dan Barber who explains the link between sustainable farms, scrumptious food and a greener planet.

“I actually think chefs (and anyone who cares about good food) will continue to lead this growing environmental movement, because, unlike those early eco-puritans, they’re motivated by the pursuit of pleasure. Their mission is about being greedy and consuming things that taste good-because foods that truly taste good are, by definition, good for you and for the planet.” – Dan Barber

Dan Barber is absolutely right: delicious food is the end product of combining great ingredients. Many times, I honestly feel as though I am not worthy of referring to myself as a “chef”. I am really good at creating flavor profiles and combing ingredients to create a wholesome final product, but some of the dishes that I make don’t even entail cooking (blanching vegetables, boiling lentils and whisking up a vinaigrette is something everyone with two hands can learn how to do).

For example…over the weekend, my husband and I went to Rottkamp’s Farm to shop for dinner. I knew I wanted to make a pasta dish because we had a box of whole-wheat fusilli at home, but I always let what I see at the market dictate the dish I will create. The first thing I saw were beautiful heads of broccoli; firm to the touch, richly green with lots of leaves sprouting out from the stalks. Second, I saw huge bouquets of basil that immediately put an Italian flavor profile into my head. I also scooped up arugula, zucchini, tomatoes, onions and a few ears of corn. Back at home I infused some olive oil with chopped garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch of dried oregano. I then added diced onion and zucchini and sautéed this duo until they started to brown. After a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper I added the tomatoes. When the pasta was just al dente, I threw in the broccoli florets to blanch and then drained the water from the pot. I seasoned the empty pot with another splash of olive oil and put back in my pasta and broccoli, added the vegetable sauté and folded in raw chopped arugula and basil…voilá! We ate the corn on the cob as a sweet treat on the side. Aside from washing and chopping vegetables, this is my example of a virtuously effortless dinner, rich in antioxidants and flavor. Because everything was so clean and fresh we didn’t even add cheese.

In conclusion, I agree with Dan Barber. My philosophy is to source seasonal and local produce to prepare foods while preserving the integrity and nutritional qualities of my ingredients. Many chefs today are making conscious decisions to support local, sustainable and organic farms to do just this. I enrolled at the Natural Gourmet Institute because in the end, I wanted to utilize my training to educate people about food. I honestly didn’t think I would be an actual cook at the completion of the program, however for me, cooking is the perfect way for me to be creative, active and deliver my message that food is nourishment.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Betsy DeLong permalink
    July 13, 2011 5:25 pm

    Totally inspiring, Hanna. Thank you! I want to try both dishes- just wish I liked figs!!
    I love that you are taking the valuble information you have learned and are sharing it.


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