Chef's Table (2015–…): Season 1, Episode 2 - Dan Barber - full transcript

A look at Dan Barber and his restaurant Blue Hill, and the start of the farm-to-table movement.

[Dan] I believe strongly
that good cooking is physical.

It demands a kind of conditioning.

Because of the drudgery
and the hours and the exhaustion

that this kind of work demands...

it does attract people who are
attracted to a certain kind of abuse.

It's exhilarating,

and the challenge is sort of,
"How much of it can you stand?"

And is that the way to live,
you know, a happy life?

I don't have the answer to that...
at all. I wonder.

[opening theme playing]

There's a real advantage
to creating a cuisine, a menu

where the vectors don't
all point at you, at the chef.

Where the food you're eating
or the place that you're at

points out to something larger...

a restaurant that has
an overriding message and purpose.

It's about something.

[Ruth] Dan is really a model
of who the modern chef is...

Welcome. Nice to have you.
Here we go. We'll start right now.

...whose goal is to do more than

just feed people
a delicious dinner in their restaurant,

but wants to change his community
and, ultimately, the world.

That's a very different place
for a chef to be

than a chef has ever been before.

[man] The ecology,

the profitability for the farmer,
the sustainability...

What makes Dan different
is that he is an investigative reporter.

The fascination of
eating in Blue Hill,

and Blue Hill at Stone Barns,

is everything that comes out there,
you can look so deeply into.

[Dan] Okay, white pepper egg
with cheddar cheese.

[Ruth] With Dan's cooking,

you taste things that just taste better

than any pea you've ever had before,
any radish you've ever had before.

A carrot that is, like,
the carrotness of carrot.

He's looking for the "a-ha" moment
where you go...

"Oh! This is what this tastes like?
Tell me about this. Why is this so great?"

That's a new notion
of who a chef is in the world.

So your next course is a...
is a piece of bread.

It's a piece of toast,

but it's a very special piece of toast
because it's a new wheat.

[Ruth] He did start out
just wanting to be a chef

and wanting to serve delicious food,

but he's got such a restless mind
and such a curious imagination

that he always asks the next question,

"Why is this better?"

[Dan] What's new? What's good?
What's different?

[Ruth] When you question everything,
you very quickly get to the ethics

and to the biology
and to the deeper questions.

"How do we use the planet?

What are our responsibilities
to our neighbors?

What are our responsibilities
to the future?"

Dan asks himself
all those questions as a chef,

but he started with the very basic,
"I just wanna cook good food."

[Dan] We opened Blue Hill, New York
in the spring of 2000.

[David] The idea came up
that we could open a NYU bistro,

a sort of neighborhood place.

I figured, you know, if we can break even
and cover the rent of this thing

and have a showcase for Dan's food
and start to build something,

it'll lead somewhere,

and that is kind of the way
that restaurant opened.

I think the food was good.
I don't think we opened with great food.

We'd been open a couple months.
We were tired and it was grinding along.

It was deep into asparagus season

and I had come back
from the farmer's market

with a couple of cases of asparagus,

and I opened up
the walk-in refrigerator

and there were just cases
lined to the ceiling of asparagus,

and here I was with four more,
and I just-- I lost it.

I was just like, "How the fuck
is this thing on the market list?"

So I did this kind of edict thing where,
"Every dish is getting asparagus tonight.

Every goddamn dish has asparagus.

We're gonna do asparagus ice cream.

Every single dish."

It was one of those things where
it was like, "This is ridiculous."

I was just like, you know, "We're gonna
freaking embarrass ourselves tonight."

But I was so dug in to my damn position

that there was no way
I was going back on it.

I felt like this was a test
I couldn't afford to fail,

and so I went with it.

Two hours later, Jonathan Gold,

the most important, respected
restaurant reviewer in the country,

walks in the door.

What was clearly
a very stupid decision on my part

played itself out
in the worst possible way.

I just thought we were gonna get skewered.

Jonathan Gold doesn't
show his emotions on his sleeve.

So I had no goddamn clue
what the man thought of the meal

until the article hit.

He loved it.

He defined us before
we really knew who we were.

He named us the new epitome
of farm-to-table,

a restaurant that was not shy

about advertising a product
that was at the height of its flavor.

It's not as if that idea
was a foreign concept to us.

We opened Blue Hill,
naming after a family farm.

But people who read the review
wanted to work here

'cause it was an up and coming idea.

That was very important,

the level of interest
in wanting to carry a message forward.

Broth for, uh, mushroom here, please.

Hey, one new egg, please.

[Dan] Okay, broth, yeah.

[cook 1] Is that on the go?

Make two eggs going to 23.

[cook 2] Getting on that broth.
[cook 1] Eggs, 23.

[Dan] Pick up. Uh, 54.

[Ruth] Dan... became the voice

of the "farm-to-table" movement
very consciously.

He cooks with the seasons.

He uses what comes from the farm today.

Farm-to-table is exactly
what's in season right then.

-First of the Crispino.
-First of the Crispino, yes.

From the greenhouse to 21.

Yes, Chef.

[Ruth] It's an old way of eating.

I mean, it's the way our ancestors ate

until there was
refrigeration and air-freight,

but we've completely
turned that on its head

in the 20th and 21st centuries
where we just think,

"The world is our oyster.

We can have
everything we want all the time,

and it doesn't matter
how good it tastes."

We're a nation of immigrants,
and when we came here,

we had abundance
like no one had ever seen.

Imagine entering the Garden of Eden.

You've got everything
you could ever dream of.

Why become a culture of great cooking

when you have the abundance to make steaks
and eat tremendous amounts of meat?

But most of the greatest cuisines
of the world came out of hardship.

They were all forced into a negotiation
between peasants and a landscape,

and that landscape was not
producing the abundance

that we associate with American abundance.

That was never a problem here,

and so we didn't adopt

the more difficult,
less-coveted cuts of meat

or varieties of vegetables and grains
because we didn't need to.

That's a real tragedy of our history.

You have the recipe
for what is American cuisine today,

which isn't really a cuisine.

Not great ingredients in large abundance,
that's sort of... that's the story.

How do you get out of that?
How do you get away from that?

[Ruth] What Dan has understood is,

it doesn't matter
how good your technique is,

if you don't have good ingredients,
you can't make good food.

[Dan] I'm not an activist. You know,
I wouldn't put that on my business card.

But what I've come to understand,

and I have yet to find any example
that flies in the face of this,

that when you are
chasing after the best flavor,

you are chasing after
the best ingredients,

and when you're chasing after
the best ingredients,

you are in search of great farming.

My grandmother often talked about

the mesmerizing beauty
of Blue Hill Farm in the 1960s.

With the sun over here,
this is beautiful.

Every summer,
all I wanted to do was be at the farm.

I remember working really hard
in the fields, really long hours,

and lifting heavy bales of hay
and loading them into the barn,

and I found it very exhilarating
to be a part of that.

It's very purpose-driven work.

Remember it took, like, three weeks
to do just this, these two fields.

When my grandmother took over the farm,

she understood that you needed
to have cows on the land

to get the nutrients from the cows

and produce good grass,
which ended up being good hay.

But when she died,

we had 20 years of no animals on the land
and a yearly haying operation...

and we ended up seeing
a wholesale decline in Blue Hill Farm.

There was a sense that
there wasn't gonna be pasture,

it wasn't gonna look like
anything we had remembered,

if we didn't do something.

[Dan] My brother and I were thinking,

"How do we preserve what
my grandmother wanted to preserve,

which is open landscape,

and how do we make the farm
and the landscape productive?"

What was needed was animals.

And so, dairy was a great way
to think about that.

And if I want great milk,
I have to support

the continuing improvement of the pasture.
Well, now we're in the chicken business.

Because what better way to break up
the manure from these dairy cows

and spread it in the fields?

Okay, we're in the chicken business
and we're getting lots of eggs.

But there is a serious problem,
as there always is,

with encroaching forest.

We're surrounded by dense, thick forest

that continually wants to
encroach on the field.

And so how do we push it back? Goats.

Goats will eat this bramble,
the things that cows won't eat,

and so, all of a sudden,
we're in the goat business

and I'm figuring out
how to cook with goat.

Blue Hill Farm goat shoulder,
Blue Hill Farm.

And then when you start
pushing back the forest,

well, you've got
the opportunity to do pigs,

and so why wouldn't we be
in the pig business?

As you get deeper
into these symbiotic relationships,

you're only improving the grass,

and if you're improving the grass,

you're improving every bite
that the dairy cows are taking,

and if you're improving every bite
the dairy cows are taking,

you're improving the milk.

To support the continual improvement
of the whole system

is the goal for better flavor...

which, in another sense,
is all going to support

the vision that our grandmother had
to preserve the open space.

It's not just the support
of the open landscape,

not just support of the dairy,
it's the support of better flavors.

One and the same.

[Jack] Stone Barns Center's
more than just a working farm.

We're a farm laboratory,

so we do a lot of projects with
different universities and seed companies,

and we also have
a really strong educational focus,

so we're able to have this kind of
inter-disciplinary relationship

between educators, farmers, engineers,
health care practitioners, chefs.

We wanna show
really good farming practices,

the best farming practices,

and Blue Hill at Stone Barns

is a restaurant companion
for this organization.

[Ruth] The magic of
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is...

first of all, you pull up to
this gorgeous location.

You're in the country
and you pass these fields

and you watch the light fade
and you're in this beautiful room.

You're given the menu.

It's just a list of what
they've reaped from the farm.

Then they bring
this profusion of foods out

that are beautiful, that are seasonal,
that are completely delicious.

It's an amazing experience.

[Dan] I wanna make sure

that the diner is understanding
where this ingredient is coming from,

and usually there's a lot of interest
for people who come here on,

"What am I eating?
Where's it from? Who's growing it?

How's it getting to me
and what's this about?"

And that's a starting point
for a conversation.

We're gonna start here
with weeds from the farm,

tomatoes on the vine.

[Ruth] It's another idea
of what a restaurant can be

because it aims to educate people.

[server] Heirloom tomato with basil seed,

followed by Jim Myers'
Indigo Rose experimental tomatoes

and smoked goat cheese.

[diner 1] Great. Looks nice.
[diner 2] Thank you.

[Dan] Plates are pretty simple.

I do that so that we don't lose
the overall idea of what we're doing.

You want the feeling of the meal
and the holistic idea of the meal

to resonate with you
long after you leave.

It's not just about the dish.
It's about what the radish represents.

It has to add up to something
larger than a plate of food.

[man] Vegetables from the farm.

[diners] Thank you.

Single-udder butter comes from
the milk of one single cow.

This is from three cows at Blue Hill Farm.

Invite you to taste
each individual butter

and see the differences you find.

-Thank you very much.
-Thank you.

[Michael] I've always been an admirer
of Dan's philosophy.

Looking at it as more of a relationship
with farmers, with agriculture,

thinking of utilizing the whole farm,
instead of,

you know, just buying always
the product that you want.

Getting creative with the product
that not everybody wants.

[Dan] ...organizes this.
This we're thinking about.

This we have to really think about,
'cause we got three cases.

This we gotta start thinking about.
This is for this week.

Next week, we have, um...

We have the dogfish.
We gotta figure that one out.

-I was thinking we could do the dogfish...

...fried today in Adam's beer batter
and then serve it with phytoplankton.

-Fish and chips?
-That's good, actually.

[Michael] We could slice it thin
and almost do, like, the tacos...

but fried fish.

That and they can swipe it
through the phytoplankton.


[cook] Like a Baja fish taco,
like the fried fish taco.

-That's great. Great.

[Ruth] It's so easy
just to eat high on the hog.

I mean, the artistry in cooking

comes not from taking a chop
and throwing it on the fire,

but from knowing how to make sausage,
how to make head cheese.

That requires real knowledge,

and one of the things that Dan
is doing at Blue Hill is using everything.

-Pig face, rib and blood.
-Pig face, rib and blood with Crispino.

[Dan] We need to redefine
our definition of fine dining

to help lead us
in a redefinition of everyday eating.

That's gonna take some wit, you know,
and creativity and some technique.

But that's the challenge
and that's part of the craft of cooking,

which is why I keep
coming back to cooking.

I don't see how this movement
continues its advance

without real culinary application.

[Ruth] He has two
different briefs right now,

and one is, as a chef and restaurateur,
to please his customers

and make that a really
wonderful experience for people.

-Hello, good evening! How are you?
-Hi. Good.

Welcome. Nice to have you.

[Ruth] On the other hand,
a responsibility

to be an ever-curious and ever-vigilant
voice for ethical, sustainable food.

[Jack] We did something
a little bit different this year.

[Dan] I think that chefs
play a really key role

because we have this power
now that we never had.

Not that long ago,

chefs were in the dungeons of the kitchen
and they were never heard from.

That's changed, for the good,
whether you believe that

chefs should have the celebrity
status they have now or not...

but to use chefs as the canvas
to broadcast these ideas

is the right way to think about it.

This is a buttercup squash.

Great. Super exciting.

[David] It's bigger than Dan.

None of this works without
the collaboration of a lot of people,

and those people need to be like-minded

in the sense that they're
trying to change the status quo,

and that's where he can be
a really inspirational leader.

Very exciting experiment
happening at Blue Hill Farm.

As you know, we...

[Adam] The biggest challenge
of working with Dan is

we're always moving, pushing,
looking for something new,

looking for a new angle, looking for
a way to rethink what we're doing.

I've never felt like we've arrived,
and I don't think we ever will arrive.

There are times that can be
very difficult and frustrating.

I'll be totally honest.
It can be quite frustrating,

but it's also incredibly exciting
to be a part of something like that.

We got our work cut out for us this fall

to bring this message to the dining room
and share the excitement.

Friend of mine said,
"The world needs more zealots,"

referring to my brother.

It's true. You need somebody
who's gonna keep driving,

devoting their life to their pursuit...

and Dan is about change.

Okay, guys, we gotta go to work.
Thank you.

-Thank you, Chef.
-Let's go do some good.

And the volume of that responsibility
and the ripple effects are intoxicating.

[Dan] Are you cool for this
or you got it already?

[cook] It's all yours.

[Michael] I've never worked with a chef
that is in the trenches with you.

From our menu meetings in the morning
to running around all service long.

[Dan] Yeah, let's do this together, no?

[Michael] He's in there,
cooking with us every single day.

[Dan] Now we wanna do toast, right?

[David] People who don't give up
get other people's attention,

and I think that determination with Dan
runs through every vein.

I mean, he just does not quit...


We're plating four pig, right?
Four pig, yes?

[cook] Yes, Chef!

-Behind that, eight duck.
-[cook] Yes!

[David] You know, it's inspiring,
but it's also daunting

to watch them throw their entire life
behind the pursuit of being better,

being more knowledgeable,
being more thorough.

If it's not gonna be perfect, don't do it.

[Adam] I think people really just think
he sits and writes a lot and is a thinker,

but he's truly a working chef
this far into his career.

A lot of other chefs aren't doing that.
He's there all the time.

Too much... for his own good,
but that's just me.

[Dan] That kind of drive or devotion
to what you're doing is expensive.

What's the cost?

[David] He has a daughter.

He started a family.
He's got an 18-month old.

So I hope that that proves
a joy and a reward for him.

You know, I hope that there's a balance.

-Tonight, we have beet salad with plums.
-[Aria] Beets?

Yum. Thank you.

Want a little plum, baba?

-You want plum-a?

You want me to have it?

That's for Daniel?
Okay, that seems fair.

[David] As I reflect back on him as a kid,
he was a relatively quiet kid.

You know, he wasn't bursting with talent.

My mother died when I was four.

She had cancer, so I ended up
doing a lot of cooking for myself,

and that's probably
where this all started.

[David] I think we were consciously
and unconsciously

quite protective of one another

and making sure that things went
as best as they could at the time.

He was always observant.
He was articulate but not outspoken,

and he was a good learner.
He was a good studier.

It took a disproportionate
amount of his time,

and people would question,

"Do you really wanna
spend that kind of time reading?

Do you really wanna
spend that kind of time

working on your writing?"

Like, "What's your goal?"

And I think along the way, he was deciding
what he was gonna put his efforts to.

His first love in food
that I was aware of was bread.

I came to visit him at college
and he had, like, six bags of bread

and he had me tasting
all these different breads

and wanting to know what I thought

and why I thought this was different
and what he liked about this or that,

and I was like, "What's with the bread?"

He's just like, "I don't know.
I think when I graduate, I wanna bake."

[Dan] I moved to LA to work with
Nancy Silverton and La Brea Bakery

which was, at the time,
considered the best in America

and one that was sort of redefining
how we think about bread.

I figured, "If I'm gonna
learn how to bake bread,

I wanna go with the best."

Drove down to LA and showed up at her door
and just begged her for a job,

and that's how I got in there.

But I was really not talented at all.

I was not a good baker,
and there was a big account,

and I mixed 1,300 pounds
of rosemary dough.

But for this particular day,
I forgot to add the salt in the recipe.

I just remember looking into the ovens
and we saw this bread going up,

and then just like as if
the crescendo of a concert or whatever,

they all fell flat like pizza...

and just in that one moment,
I was like, "Jesus, man."

Nancy was there,
talking to her manager,

and she was just like,
"I can't let this kid ruin my business."

It was my first time
I ever got fired from a job,

so I learned a lot through that.

[Ruth] When Nancy Silverton fired him,
it became a challenge.

"Let me figure out
how to make the best bread."

[cook] This one is amazing.


Smell that. Fucking beautiful.
I mean, beautiful.

[Dan] When we think of
Western civilization,

you start to realize
it was built from wheat.

Grains represent 65% of our agriculture.

Vegetables and fruits are about 6%.

We eat more wheat
than just about anything.

The problem is that we don't eat
true, whole wheat.

We eat wheat that's dead and denuded.

So it'll last. It's shelf stable.

Part of the reason
that it has absolutely no flavor

is because agri-business
is looking for crops

that can last a long time in travel
or last a long time in your refrigerator.

They're not looking for flavor.
They're not looking for nutrition.

The real disaster is that in all of this,

we lost the taste of wheat
and we lost all the health benefits,

and for something that we eat so much of,
it's really a true disaster.

If we're gonna change the food system,

we have to change
how we grow and consume wheat.

[Ruth] I've never really met
another chef like Dan.

He's just endlessly thoughtful.

Taking it back and back
and back and back

until he gets to the soil.

[Dan] If you think of soil
like a bank account,

many of the crops that we love require
a tremendous amount of soil fertility,

which is to say they require
a big withdrawal from the bank.

Every time we eat,
we are withdrawing from a communal bank.

The question is, "How do you
make a deposit into this bank account?"

[Klaas] These two are rye.
This was triticale.

[Dan] You need to return fertility
back to the soil to get another crop.

So you can't count on the idea that soil
will continue to give you a harvest,

'cause it won't,

unless you're using chemicals like
most conventional American agriculture.

One of the responsibilities
of organic farming

is to return fertility
without using chemicals.

[Klaas] Actually, we just stepped
over something here.

[Dan] Red Dock.

Red Dock means that there is a shortage
of soluble calcium in the surface.

Now, we don't have a lot of Red Dock,
so I know this field has enough calcium.

[Dan] One way to do it
is to use rotation crops.

Plant actual crops

that create a lively community
of microorganisms in the soil

that will ultimately translate into
your tasting something more delicious

than a plant grown
in denuded soil in chemicals.

[Dan] You're planting soy.
You're favoring doing it after rye?

-Yes, based on what we're seeing.
-That's what you're seeing.

[Dan] You cannot taste great flavor

unless the soil's a fully active
biological community,

and the mechanics of that
are difficult to explain.

I've spent a long time researching.
I've talked to a ton of people.

All we know for sure is that
the more life there is in the soil,

the more potential you have
for the creation of flavor.

You have to stick to the rotation here

because you have to have a crop
following its most suitable predecessor.

[Dan] Organic farmers have to do it.

They have to return that fertility
back to the soil.

And what we've become accustomed to

is that they're going to
plant these crops at a loss

and they'll make up the difference
with a wheat crop or a crop that we covet.

What we ought to do is

be encouraging them
to grow these rotation crops

not just to feed the soil,
but also to feed us.

It seems like everywhere you turn,
rye is such an important crop.

Yeah, that's right.

How much would it help you

if people were eating more rye and
creating more of a market for your rye?

It would help a lot.

[Dan] I'd like to give
an economy to the farmer.

I'd like to give an incentive
to the farmer to grow more rotation crops.

[server] In front of you is a risotto
of sorts, but instead of rice,

-you have a variety of legumes and grains.
-[diner] Thank you.

[Dan] And that's the challenge here.

How do we put the pieces together
and celebrate the Hudson Valley

in a way that supports
good agriculture and good farming?

So that's what we're after.

I wanna think about ways
to upend people's expectations

and there's a little bit of tension
on the high wire act.

Gaga, where are my flowers?

The chef I used to work for, David Bouley,

always said,
"If you're not about to maybe fall,

then you're not really working,

you're not really cooking,
you're not really creating,"

and I believe in that.

Come on, we gotta move!

I like the tension.

The tension is where I think you can
really achieve some excitement.

That's it. That'll cook
while it's sitting in there, man.

That's like... Come on, dude.
You don't have to-- Just--

That's enough.
It's cooked. It's cooked.

When I was in my early 20s,

I got an internship at a restaurant
called Michel Rostang in Paris,

and I ended up getting inculcated

in this rigor and the history
of French cooking

and the tradition around food
and the obsession with quality,

and that's when the bug, I think, hit.

[Dan] Ordering Farmer's Feasts for two.

Two tomatoes. Two lobster.

Two duck. Ending, two pig.

[cooks] Yes!

[Dan] All French chefs of the old school
had huge tempers.

I've adopted from those experiences,

a temper that
I'm just not proud of at all.

[Dan] What is this?

[cook] Just the one I made with chicken.

Well, forget it.
Throw it away, man.

Just forget it.
Throw the whole thing away.

You know, to shout at cooks mercilessly,
it's not a good way to be successful.

I know that, but I do have a temper,

and a really bad one
and one that I regret.

It looks like, just...
It looks like shit.

Look at your fucking station.

It's easy for me to say,
"Well, look at my history.

It's the language that I learnt."

And to a certain extent, I believe that,
but I really do have to think about this

because I don't wanna be
the kind of chef that intimidates

and acts in a way that's, uh...

you know, that's just abhorrent.

That's all, it's just abhorrent.

So... I'm working on it.

[Dan] Don't bang the pots, okay?
[cook 1] Yeah, okay.

Don't bang the fucking pots.

[cook 2] Where is he?

[Dan] Ordering VIP ticket.

Two tomato, two lobster,
two goose, two carbonara,

two lamb belly,
and, ending, two pig tasting.

[cooks] Yes!

Last night, a chef came in.
We were quite busy

and I hopped off the line
to talk with him for a second.

He's like, "Wow, man. You still cook?"

The off-the-cuff response is,

"Of course I'm cooking.
That's what chefs do."

And the other thing is like,
"He had a point to make.

Why haven't I set up two kitchens
where they truly run on their own?"

I mean, Michael here, along with
Adam and the rest of the team,

they're very good.

Extraordinarily talented
and driven themselves.

So why is it that I haven't figured out
a formula where I've extricated myself...

from the daily rigors of the restaurant?

I think there's something there
that's driving me.

It's not just because
I wanna drive the team.

It also fulfills something in me
that I need, apparently.

There's one way to look at my life
as really exemplary

in the sense that we have two restaurants
that have been very successful,

and then there's another way
to look at it. It's quite sad.

A lot of this work is the attempt
to fill some kind of sadness

or something that I didn't
have in my life that I wish I had.

Filling a void.

I don't know that a mother...

dying when you're that age
ends up ever getting filled.

Are we doing a lot of this

because we had this void in our life
we're trying to make up for?

We build a restaurant.

There's always this
unconscious thought of, like,

"Who's gonna
come into the restaurant?"

So is building a restaurant a way
to get our mother back to the table,

so to speak, you know?

That could be part of it... yeah.

Isn't our life one attempt
to fill a void after another?

I don't know if I'm succeeding or not,
but I'm trying hard.

Who knows where this stuff originates
and where it ends and... I don't know.

There's a lifetime to work out here.



[Sean] I started farming
about 13 years ago.

I wanted to know more about food
and where it comes from.

So I bought some meat chickens
and it sort of grew from there.

The average age of the American farmer
is in the 60s or something like that,

which is a little bit ridiculous.

The toughest challenge is always gonna be

how to do what feels right
and what tastes good

and isn't just about the bottom line.

[Dan] We have this great
milking operation going,

and suddenly,
we have males born on the farm.

[Sean] They may go right past you.

[Dan] Now, I knew what a veal calf is,

but I never put together
that if we have a dairy,

we're gonna have to eventually
deal with the males that are born.

They're not gonna be milked...

[Sean] That's not your mom.

[Dan] ...and either they're gonna
become an asset to the farm

or they're gonna become a liability,

and from a dairy perspective,

the last thing you want
is a male sucking down your profits.

Yes, the veal business
and the dairy business are--

Other than the fact that
the veal calves come from a dairy,

they're completely disconnected.

The reputation of veal is terrible.

It's of a tortured animal,

and for good reason.

What most people do, 99%,
is you take the calf off the mother

and you feed it, you know, junk,

and it gets very sick and
you have to intervene with antibiotics.

Conventional veal's white.

It's blanch white
because the calves are anemic.

I can't eat that kind of veal.
I mean, I just like... Ugh.

So I started to realize,
"Okay, I gotta get with this veal

if I really wanna support
the farm and the milk."

And what Sean and I decided
was to push this for the menu,

to create a revenue stream for the farm

and to humanely raise
a truly delicious, extraordinary veal.

He's kept these calves on their mother
throughout the course of the day

and they have free-choice milk.

Conventional veal versus veal
that's on pasture and on its mother...

it's a different product.

It's another world.

The highest order of humaneness
produces the best flavor,

and it pushes me and the chefs here
to reinvent the menu constantly.


[Sean] My hope is that people
will start to recognize flavor

and they're like,
"Oh, my God,

I didn't realize that food
could taste this good,"

and they change the way they eat

and it's a life-changing experience.

[cook] Pick up, two toasts!
[all] Yes!

-Two marmalade on the fly, now!
-[cook] Yes!


-Exact, okay.

Thirty-two. Come on, come on,
come on, come on! Pick up!

We're headed to Mott Street.

I haven't been to this spot in...
yeah, 15 years.

I sort of stayed away
because I think it brings back...

bad juju.

In 1997, when I ended up
coming back from France,

I had this catering company started.

I was doing an event every week.

I was desperately trying to
make a go of it, of the catering.

I was preparing a wedding for 300 people.

I was in this ridiculously
illegal kitchen in Chinatown,

just below ground,
had no ventilation for the stove.

Right down in here.

It's, like, the most illegal kitchen
in the history of the world.

To ventilate, I kept the thing open.

This was a snail-cleaning operation.

So every time he washed out the snails,
to clean the dirty water,

it would just completely flood my kitchen.
It was so fucking crazy.

It was, like, 4:00 in the morning
and I was just making the dessert soup,

and I was like, "I'm gonna run out
and just get a snack at the corner."

I closed the door
to my kitchen downstairs,

I went up to the sidewalk and I realized
that the door had locked behind me.

Then I started having, like,
these visions of firefighters coming.

My whole mindset
was that this was so illegal.

"I'd be in jail,"
that's what I kept thinking.

So I was just like,
"Who the hell am I gonna call?

Who am I gonna scream to
because of the illegality of it?"

I just... I like... I had,
what I guess one would say... I lost it.

I just, physically, I lost it
and I got this itching attack.

It was just the weirdest
physical manifestation of pain.

I was in this, like, crouched position,
itching, itching, itching, itching.

Nothing could have been worse.

All of a sudden, this guy touched me
and was like, "You okay, man?"

Like, "What's going on?"

I think I was crying.

I've not felt more
depleted or low in a moment.

Every chef I know that's successful

has had moments
of just really intense failure.

Failure is very important.

It introduces you to an idea
that you don't ever wanna return to.

Hang on a second. No, no, no, no.
Real nice, man. Real nice.

Okay. Forty-three's first pick up.

[cook 1] Yes.
[cook 2] Yes.

[Dan] Where did this start?
What are you doing? What's going on?

So, the two things we try to do
are to either remove the heat completely

or to be able to just set
an upper threshold limit.

[Dan] We need to look at modernity
and science when it comes to flavor.

That is the future of really great cooking
and really great farming.

And so, what we are working to do
is take some of these paprika types

and cross them with peppers
that really excel here,

-that ripen really early.

[Mazourek] It might be hot.

[all laughing]

[Mazourek] Okay?

[Michael] Is it a hot one or a sweet one?

My mouth is a three-alarm fire right now.

[laughing continues]

[Dan] Okay.

Can you show us the red peppers
you're developing for these special eggs,

these red pepper eggs?

[Dan] We came up with the idea of
pureeing peppers

and feeding them to chickens.

Mike wanted to breed us
a pepper at a concentrate.

The diet for the chicken would allow
for the yolk to be truly a red egg yolk.

[Mazourek] They'll have about
10 times the red pigment.

[Dan] No shit. No shit.
God, that's awesome.

The famous Michael Pollan expression is,
"You are what you eat,

but you are what you eat eats, too."

We have the opportunity here
to put that into action,

to get people to think about
not just what they're eating

but what they're eating is eating.

Why would you waste
a perfectly great pepper on a chicken

instead of feeding it to people?

[Mazourek] Peppers evolved
to be eaten by birds.

So all the really hot ones--

-[woman] They can't taste the capsaicin.
-Yeah, they can't taste it.

So it's actually...

It's the natural system
of birds eating peppers.

-Whoa! [imitates exploding]
-It's the natural system.

[woman] Which came first?
[Dan] I love that.

[Dan] Mike came here for dinner.
I had a butternut squash.

I was like, "Mike, why don't you
breed a squash that has a lot more flavor

and shrink the thing
and get the water out of it?"

He looked at me
and I'll never forget it.

He adjusted his glasses like this,
he looked up to me and he said,

"In all my years of breeding, no one
has ever asked me to breed for flavor."

It's something that really, as a breeder,
you're really discouraged from working on.

Everything is supposed to fit
this one uniform size,

this conception
of what the produce should be,

and so this relationship,

the beautiful thing is
it's really set us free.

[Dan] Yeah, he ran with it
and then four years later,

here we are with
this new variety of squash.

It's just amazingly delicious.

The flavor's more concentrated.
It's sweeter.

It's more complex.
It's not just sweetness.

And it just blows away
people in the dining room.

I look at my challenge

as creating that cuisine
around the things that I believe in.

I want the pieces to come together
and I want more farms and more diversity.

I'd like to keep pushing.

How do we think about this
20 years down the road

and how do you put this together

in a way that speaks to
a true Hudson Valley cuisine?

That's where we're headed.
It's a lot of work.

A lot of work.

It takes a lot of time
and a lot of devotion.

I was 43 when I had Edith, my daughter.

Anyone can have a family
and raise children.

The question is--
You wanna do it in a way that, like...

people are reasonably happy.

Part of that requires time and investment
in the same way that the kitchen does.

[Dan] One more slide and then we gotta go.

Oop! Okay.

[Aria] Ready?

[Dan] I was attracted to cooking

'cause it's so beautiful
when you look at it from afar.

What I didn't understand
when I was looking at the beauty

is just how torturous it is, and...

and that's a lesson learned late.

It's still so difficult.

I still feel the sort of sadness.

I feel this extreme sadness
when I'm not with her on a Sunday...

like yesterday.

I know that I'm not
gonna get that time back.

It's prosaic to say that, but it's...

When you're actually living in it,
it feels-- I feel a lot of pain.

Bye, Edith.

-Bye, Daddy.

First time she's putting words together,
and starting to form a sentence,

you're like,
"Fuck, I missed that, dude!"


Anyway... I'm gonna spend
some time with her tomorrow.

It's really the existence of being a chef.
You have this crazy life.

This is an absolutely crazy life,

the hours, intensity, pressure,

and the brink of failure
that is just constant.

[David] Being a leader,
there's a high expectation

and I think that became a calling
that made it clear to him

that the work he had in front of him
was probably vastly different

from what he might have imagined
when he started cooking.

This breeding experiment
is not about us just tasting something.

"Oh, I like that wheat,"
or, "Oh, I like that squash."

I think the more productive
use of our time

is to go straight to the breeder
and help them realize our goals.

That's the trick to all of this.

He has very knowingly
taken on the responsibility

of becoming the voice
for the ethical restaurateur.

[Dan] I'm here to introduce
your next course.

Chefs play a huge role.

We have this power now
that we never had.

We can introduce change for the good.

A breeder by the name of Steve Jones

is breeding some of the best wheats
of the future for flavor.

Which is why I'm so excited about wheat

as one of the answers
to looking at this holistically.

We need to breed the bran
for flavor and for functionality.

That's where it's at.

They drunk off that.

This is new. This is like--
This is the future. Revolution.

I'd love people to leave here and
think that they've connected with nature,

and it sounds fucking weird
when I say that, but I really mean it.

Well, it's 100% whole wheat.

This isn't, [mocking] "Oh,
whole wheat croissant, it's 10%."


And so here, we gotta pass this around.
Grab a bite of them.

The role of the menu
is to put the pieces back together,

and we can do that
through what the land provides.

[Dan] Right? It's good.

-Wow! I'm blown away.

That's delicious.

It's not at all what I expected.

[Dan] That's the gift of nature, really.

When you treat nature well,
it gives you the gift of great food.

[Ruth] I am actually very hopeful
about the sustainable food movement.

We now have a generation
of young people

who understand
that eating is an ethical act

in a way that
no previous generation ever did.

So I feel like the challenge for
this whole deal, for my lifetime really,

is turning our expectation
for dinner on its head.

How can I create a dish around veal
or Mike Mazourek's squashes...

The future's gonna be great.

...or Klaas' lowly grains and
leguminous crops?

[Klaas] There's likely to be
a very impressive crop here.

[Dan] How do you create dishes
like Rotation Risotto

that become important
to someone to repeat?

Well, that's it.

What if you had, like all cuisines,
200 of those kinds of dishes?

And what if people started
requesting them over and over again?

Does it become a cuisine
in my lifetime?

I don't know,
but as Wes Jackson likes to say,

"If you're thinking about an idea
that you can solve in your lifetime,

you're thinking too small."

That gives me great hope
and also great energy...

because I don't know where else
all of these ideas come together.

If you're a nutritionist,

you're looking at this
from a very myopic view.

It's an important one, but it's myopic.

If you're an agricultural economist,
you have a different view of it.

If you're an ecologist,
you're preserving the open space,

you have another view of it.

Where is the connection?

-[taps table]
-Plate of food.

Plate of food.

And that's the power of the chef.

[closing theme playing]