Chef Dan Barber talks to UGA

Chef Dan Barber talks to UGA

>>Dan Barber, Chef: The Land-Grant university system is the greatest educational system that has ever been invented. We are the envy of
the world and the University of Georgia is amazing example of a powerful
agriculture institution. The idea behind it was that we were a growing country
and that we didn’t know how to farm very well and that we needed local educators –
what became Extension agents – but follow all the way through to the university
through breeders and scientists who were adapting varieties both of seeds and of
agriculture techniques that were based on the region, on the area, the expertise
of the environmental realities of the region because the United States was so
vast and so geographically diverse to have an institution that was devoted to
agriculture for that state was key and that’s why the Land-Grant university was
created. It’s a response to what the food culture, the specific regional food
culture, is asking you it wants to grow. So chefs and Land-Grants to me, you
know, they are a marriage in heaven. I have a style of cooking that’s
very simple that drove me to concentrate on flavors in a way that I don’t think I
would have been as disciplined to concentrate on and that led me to “Well
how is this carrot grown versus this carrot because this carrot tastes a lot
better and this carrot is more memorable what is it about that carrot?” Well I
learned that that carrot was grown in a certain kind of soil.
“Okay well how’d you get that soil so it could be replicated for the farmer over here?
Well that requires a certain kind of rotation and a crop and a certain cover
crops and “Okay what are those and what are those other crops that need to be
eaten to get the soil ready for that carrot?” Oh well that’s about you know
this grass and this legume and… “Oh okay so I got to support those for this
farmer too if I’m going to support the carrot.” It’s sort of like keeps going
further. What seed of the carrot did you use? You know that’s really where I should
have started. I got to that as a kind of late-inning
revelatory question but it was really like that should have been the first one
because the seed determined the flavor because it was selected for a certain
kind of flavor and as I said determine the kind of blueprint
how that farm was going to work. I came to the idea of eating cover crops based on
that conversation that we started with you know “How do you get that great
carrot?” A lot of the reason had to do with – there were this suite of other crops
that were intermingled before that carrot ever came into the ground and
that locked and loaded the soil with the kind of fertility it needed to give you
the carrot that I was so celebrating. Okay well if I I really want that carrot then
I’ve got to support that cover crop that went in before it. What’s the cover crop?
Oh well it’s clover and what I discovered is clover is lost real estate
for the farmer. In other words I’m paying for the clover through the carrot. I
started to say “Well why is this a sunk cost? Can we, you know, can
we do something here? I started to taste it. When it’s was older – inedible – but young shoots
of clover – just delicious. And I started looking at that in other
cover crops and realizing that in certain stages for these cover crops
they’re not just edible they’re like stunningly delicious. So one
of the jobs of a chef who is a proponent of this thing is he needs to get the
food culture interested in clover. So I think there’s a whole world of
possibilities for cover crops that are edible.

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