Though the Munchies People’s Choice Food Awards is in its fourth year, it is the inaugural year for a new recognition of honor: Inspirational Food Thought Leader.
Guest Blogger: Annie Wang
The Munchies Awards expert panel, led by Andrew Zimmern, wanted to recognize the person or group who has had the greatest positive transformative impact on the country's food system and has made a substantial impact for our future. And with that criterion in mind, the panel selected chef Dan Barber as the 2015 Inspirational Food Thought Leader.
It is not an exaggeration to call Barber a visionary. He has popularized ideas that upend the way people think about the food they eat. In 2014, he published The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. Not only is he a thought leader in the world of food, he’s also a world-class chef. In 2006 Barber won James Beard's "Best Chef, New York City,” and in 2009, he received the James Beard award for "America's Outstanding Chef.” And if that wasn’t enough, he was named one of the world's most influential people in Time's annual "Time 100" list.
Barber’s thought leadership is evident if you ever get a chance to visit his establishments. The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is located in the Pocantico Hills, just north of Sleepy Hollow, New York. It is an educational center and a non-profit farm dedicated to sustainable farming and local foods. This area is also the home of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which has been named as one of Food and Wine’s Top 10 Life Changing restaurants and has maintained a spot on the S. Pellegrino list for a long time. As an advocate of sustainability and stewardship of the earth, Barber uses what is grown at the farm at the Blue Hill restaurants.
Although there are two Blue Hill locations (the other is in NYC), the Stone Barns is one of my favorite places because you can walk around the farm, meet baby farm animals, and check out the vast greenhouse that’s used for growing produce for the restaurant before or after your meal.
My first meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns was with three New York City chefs (one went on to open his own restaurant in the West Village called Louro
). The ingredients were so fresh that you couldn’t help but indulge and appreciate the importance of good food even for big city slickers like us who had access to a range of big, fancy ingredients. Instead of telling you about my experience, you should go if you get the chance to!
Annie Wang is the editor of the Tasteseekers Kitchen blog at General Mills, based in Minneapolis. She plans and contributes content for the blog, and supports initiatives for the company's kitchens. She began her career at General Mills in 2013.