By now, you have probably heard a thing or two about Dan Barber. Between his successful restaurants, his TED Talks, Op-Ed pieces in the New York Times and multiple James Beard awards, the ICC grad is everywhere. If you were late to the game, or intimidated by the epic text (like me) fear not! The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food is not only important and revolutionary but also engaging, funny and incredibly readable.
For Barber, the “Third Plate” is a sustained food system based on community and culture, made up of major changes in the way we currently produce and consume our food. This concept is illustrated through personal and highly relatable stories that make the broader concepts easy to grasp for anyone, even those of us without a science or agriculture background. The Third Plate is divided into four sections; soil, land, sea and seed. Each section is populated by fascinating and funny characters passionate about their work as well as Barber’s experiences. A particular favorite was when he tried to impress a table of Gourmet Magazine editors dining editors dining at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Barber sent out bluefin tuna. The whole table returned their plates – untouched. (Blue fin tuna is going extinct.) He tried to cover his tracks to Caroline Bates, one of the editors:
“Bluefin are headed south down the Atlantic,” I said (Which was true.)
“These large schools become available for local fishermen.” (Which was mostly true.) “See, there are certain times of the year, when large schools are running, when it’s acceptable to catch them.” (Mostly not true.)
“Really?” She looked skeptical now. “I don’t think that’s true”
The incident both haunted him and motivated him to delve into study of the state of oceans.
I would recommend this book to anyone curious about the stories behind food, but this book is an absolute must read for any student in the Farm-To-Table program. It was great to know the colorful stories behind the corn, pigs and wheat at Stone Barns before I get a chance to see them for the first time – not to mention knowing the behind-the-scenes stories of what goes on in the kitchen. Of particular interest for students seeking inspiration for the Culinary level 5 menu project, Barber has created a Third Plate tasting menu in the final section of the book. A menu for 2050 includes courses such as milky oat tea with cattail, and trout with phytoplankton.