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Top Chef goes to Blue Hill

January 22, 2009

2007_04_food_bluehillAfter being given the challenge to create a seasonal meal out of either pork, lamb or chicken, some of the contestants on tonight’s top chef were confused about where exactly they were going to get their ingredients.

“We were driving now and there are bushes, trees, everywhere, and I’m like, we are not going to the Whole Foods market,” said Fabio.

Next on the show was a dramatic montage of plants, tractors, fields, and other things that nobody would ever associate with food. The show went to Stone Barns, a functioning farm and education center in upstate New York. Stone Barns is home to Blue Hill restaurant, where head chef Dan Barber has become famous for cooking with animals and vegetables raised on the farm. Barber, who this blog interviewed a few months back, served as a guest judge.

The chefs were universally elated to be dealing with such fresh ingredients.  We got some good amusing shots of chefs in shining white shirts walking amongst sheep, pigs and chickens, and even helping the farmers with a few tasks.

“Anytime a chef can actually get to the farm and connect with the produce that’s being grown, without a doubt it tastes much better,” said host Tom Colicchio.

Because they were making lunch for the farmers that grew their ingredients, the chefs also felt a certain pressure to handle their food with the respect the farmers might expect.

Needless to say, you could only really do a challenge like this in late summer and have it be worth watching, and some of the dishes involved heirloom tomato salads, fresh pesto, roasted new potatoes, zucchini and swiss chard. They even made fried green tomatoes, something which a farmer would never do unless he or she absolutely had to.

Dan Barber eventually crowned team chicken the winner, having made chicken cutlets with a mizuna, corn, onion and tomato salad, a roast chicken with a tomato salad and a chicken ravioli soup.

About using the meat from Stone Barns, Colicchio said on his blog “When animals are raised as they are at Stone Hill and are fed the right ingredients, you don’t need to do a whole lot to them.”

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