Dan Barber, Dave Arnold, Dana Cowin on The Plate Project and the Future of Food

Friday, March 15, 2013

Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin discusses The Plate Project—she mailed paper plates to designers, chefs, artists and other food folks to draw their predictions of what we'll be eating 35 years from now. She’s joined by Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Dave Arnold, the French Culinary Institute's director of culinary technology and partner at Booker & Dax, to talk about the future of food.


Dave Arnold, Dan Barber and Dana Cowin

Comments [54]



I don't pretend to know anything at all about Alice W's or Dan Barber's finances - I just know that Alice Waters raised consciousness in the Bay area - that came back to us in at least one garden and one blog from a Parisian woman who didn't know about food till Alice woke her up when she was working in Silicon Valley. Now she loves cooking and learning about food. France (and much of the European Community) have begun to lose their food wisdom and habits like we have - except the EC has tougher standards (but they are industrial and they do now put crap in the yogurt etc. and they call factory farming "à l'americain") So this blog is US-French and connects people who want to pay attention to their food environment. I don't care if they are slick. My heroes are the likes of Will Allen and really Joel Salatin who are also role models for local farmers I know (Mennonites etc.) who sell me the most amazing eggs, etc. (Initially I needed food to regrow my bones and I did it, now I am negotiating a terminal diagnosis with food and "alternatives.") I think slowly we ARE going to prevail but we have to keep at it. Voting with wallet, pestering senators, joining groups supporting small farmers... People are applying their curiosity and creativity - in ways they figure out for themselves - that's what's inspiring.

So I think people like Dan Barber are harmless and eye-opening at the same time. I was disappointed to hear him sort of dismiss an accusation of being tyrannical in his kitchen - it didn't matter that he treated his support staff poorly - so I learned I do find his curiosity worth knowing about but I don't think I ever wanted to meet him anyway. I did meet Joel Salatin and Will Allen - that was a real treat.

Mar. 15 2013 08:59 PM


Dan Barber is a chef - and I believe a poet. I think he finds things (answers) out that he wouldn't otherwise if he did things differently from the way he does them. I asked someone earlier to look up his TED talks - one about a sustainable (and then some ) fish hatchery in Spain and teh other about natural foie gras (I'm a veggie) and its history. No No I think if you sat down at your table with him and talked about this stuff you would both come away enlightened. And more than likely sated!

Mar. 15 2013 08:27 PM


Mar. 15 2013 06:09 PM


"Carbon footprint pissing contests - really?"

There you go again. I did not say anything about carbon. Stay in your Bloomberg echo chamber and enjoy your SYSCO horsemeat.

Mar. 15 2013 06:08 PM

thatgirl from manhattan ~

Excellent response/observations. Thanks for saving me the keystrokes!!

The only thing I would add, is this:

No one is trashing farmers, here. No one.

I ONLY shop the Green Market. I worship authentic independent farmers. I pay more because of the food politics/economics I believe in AND because it tastes better. ...usually...and because I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford it (kind of).

My rant is against faux farmer types and "foodies" (pains me to type it) like Dan Barber who cultivate an image of impassioned food justice and "authenticity" and then prepares food that only investment bankers can afford. I see this as an exploitation of the issues and...elitist. The agriculture/husbandry that Barber advocates needs to translate to something that more of us can enjoy. The answer to our industrial food issues does not lie in feeding the one percent "single udder butter". It's not okay that I can afford food that is (to borrow from Petrini) "good, clean and fair" and the majority of my neighbors can not.

The politics need to change but I'm afraid tasting flights of artisanal butter are not gonna do it.

Jimbo ~

Enough with the sophomoric, pollyanna country vs. city argument - it's a snooze. The only answer to your ridiculous posit is the mass extermination of most of the current earth inhabitants. Then we'd all be able to (the ones left, at least!) bask in low-consumption pastoral bliss.

The whole world does not look like NYC for the simple fact that cities like NYC exist! As I mentioned before; imagine what would happen to your isolationist bliss if NYC emptied on to your backyard!

Carbon footprint pissing contests - really?

This is silly.

Mar. 15 2013 05:58 PM
Peg from Finger Lakes

Thanks to everyone for contributing to a much more interesting and informative thread than Leonard's interview.

Mar. 15 2013 05:47 PM


" Until you can make an honest, quantitative comparison of the per-capita energy consumption of each type..."

Come on. Get real. I am not talking about per-capita consumption I am talking about a highly concentrated consumption sink that needs to pull in resources from less energy efficient regions to survive. Thus, your footprint extends far beyond the borders of the five boroughs. You really don't get that? If the whole world looked like NYC, we would all be dead.

Mar. 15 2013 04:58 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Anonyme - It's essential you understand Dan Barber's business--at Blue Hill/Stone Barns, and beyond, before you accuse anyone here of being narrow or closed-minded. Dan is a smooth talker--at TED or otherwise; would that he used it to solve food issues here, from the standpoint of bad federal and state policy and Monsanto-enforced growing standards. His soapbox is sturdier than ours. Alice Waters has made loads off of the same audience as Dan's, but at the very least, she's worked for change in cultural appreciation via her Edible Schoolyard program and advocacy to the USDA regarding improving the quality of school lunches.

We're all challenged to buy the best quality we can muster--because it tastes better, and it's key to health. However, the most vulnerable populations (many of which are our own neighbors) don't need to hear Barber, Cowan and Arnold blather on about terroir and "smart" refrigerators; they need advocacy that sees them having a choice between something good for their wellbeing and those offerings from Monsanto, Cargill et al.

Mar. 15 2013 04:49 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Jim - I appreciate your clarification, but you're still making an uninformed/broadbrush assumption about the energy consumption of urban dwellers versus rural ones. Until you can make an honest, quantitative comparison of the per-capita energy consumption of each type of denizen (and yeah--I know some farmers with iphones, computers, and gas-guzzling trucks--I just don't fault them for it and imply superiority), then I'd refrain from making that a case in point.

I don't doubt dboy and others here appreciate what growers, small and large, contribute to our food system and its availability. But it's false to assume we're looking to you to solve all the issues of responsible growing and wider availability. We know this is down to Fed and local policies that create geographic areas devoid of real, whole food. We want the GMOs and non-organic foodstuffs appropriately labeled, so we can make healthy and responsible choices.

And we do what we can to support those small upstate growers--not only by buying their produce when made available in our greenmarkets, but by participating in the hugely-popular CSAs, which is a great partnership between consumers and growers, ensuring more fair payment for their labors, and far fresher options for consumers.

I have been in Albany many times, talking to upstate electeds about finding middle ground on which to communicate about the threat hydrofracking will have to all upstate agriculture. If i had a dime for each time one of them said, "Well, my farmers don't get those fed subsidies, so they gotta make money with their land by leasing to the oil/gas industry," I'd be a wealthy woman.

Further, I take great respite in New York's exceptional rural beauty when I can manage it (which is not often enough), and I take great pride in being able to keep those dollars in-state. I want it to stay the way those great stewards of the land have endeavored to keep it, and I believe that New York State has to stand up and call b.s. on protections for wealthy factory farmers who worship at the altar of Monsanto.

Peace, brother.

Mar. 15 2013 04:14 PM

@thatgirl / dboy

I did not realize that I was breast beating. Certainly not my intent. My original post lamented the inability to irrigate my crops with captured rainwater. People in NYC need food right? Unless you are going to grow it all in the city, you need to import it. And if you don't want to buy it from Big Ag LLC, you need to buy it from a smaller farm operation. My point was that I am at a disadvantage relative to Big Ag LLC.

dboy, as he is apt to do, decided to pick a fight. This time by dismissing the relevant problem of small farmers vs. the DEC and taking an ad hominem shot at upstate automobiles. In my response, I was trying to make the point that places like NYC import a lot of materials and rely on the rest of the world to keep them fed and oxygenated. Ok, I expressed that idea with an acerbic tinge, the idea is neither a wild assertion, nor a judgement against city dwellers. It is a simple fact that cities cannot exist without places in the world in which people hold more acres than a brownstone covers and, gasp, need to use oil burning cars and heavy machinery to get around, work the land, and deliver food to the city. We even need, gasp, to use guns sometimes.

When city dwellers take shots at farmers who are trying to grow healthy food in an ecologically responsible manner, i get annoyed. Yes, you do rely on outsiders for your sustenance. Do I resent that? No. I love the cultural contributions to society that come out of NYC and realize that these things would not happen in an agrarian utopia (I hate bluegrass music and line dancing).

Also, I did not say that cities were inefficient, so I have no intention of defending that manufactured diversionary argument. I said that they are not healthy ecosystems. Again, not a wild assertion. No, I am not falling for the false 'upstate/downstate' struggle. I am merely trying to make the point that the city is a hyper-extreme abiotic ecosystem with massive consumption levels - whose existence requires that other, much larger, parts of the world maintain a completely different lifestyle.

Attitudes like dboys leads to the inevitable polarization that he claims to hold in contempt. The snarky 'efficient' city dwellers, demanding better service form its providers, only hasten the 'efficient' monopolization of Big Ag LLC and SYSCO to service their needs - while as cavemen hobbits like me sell land to real estate developers (who can somehow also manage to get around the DEC) and go work for Monsanto.

And, no dboy, I clearly indicated that I own a car. If you want to debate via your twitteresque masturbatory outbursts, please try to stay honest.

Mar. 15 2013 03:44 PM

thatgirl from manhattan ~

"Emilie Conrad".

Mar. 15 2013 02:30 PM

thatgirl from Manhattan

Please look online for Dan Barber's TED Talks - I think he's a poet - one about natural foie gras (pretty darn interesting, even to this longtime vegetarian) and another about a fish hatchery in Spain - he's gone to the ends of the earth to find out ways to solve some of these problems - there are other videos but these are the ones I remember most. I've never been to Blue Hill and my sort of bias has to do with what I learned when it was time to reverse some serious bone loss (for which I was sent to Mary Enig, Sally Fallon - and to Weston A Price whose life work was summarized for lay people in 1939 as Nutrition and Physical Degeneration - very interesting and informative about food traditions from small, happy, healthy societies in extreme conditions around the globe. Favorite quote from healer/choreographer Emilie Conrad: "Oh, don't cry, dearie, it's just the industrial revolution, it will pass."

Mar. 15 2013 01:58 PM

Jim ~

I hate to confuse your comments with facts but, believe it, or not, urban living is FAR more efficient than rural or suburban living.

My counterpoint was meant to punctuate the complete absurdity of your comment - If we (evil urbanites) saw the error of our ways and moved to a more "pastoral" setting your idyllic "magic" world would CEASE to exist.

Not to diminish your concern for the corporate takeover of american food production - I totally agree. However, I don't think a cloyingly romantic and naive perspective on the Holly Hobbit life is what we need to get things turned-around.

You're telling us you don't own a car, up there???

Mar. 15 2013 01:38 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Jim - I think I can help you understand where dboy's coming from, if you'll stop the breast beating a moment:

It's really hard to be objective when people who work for Michelin-starred food sources (and the publications that make millions promoting them) go on about what constitutes good food resourcing. I'd be more impressed if these pundits used some of their profit to advocate better bioavailable food policy that makes "good quality" accessible to all. Would that the working person have Dan Barber's problem of not enough milk to make his wife's morning cappuccino!

Mar. 15 2013 01:35 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Jim - While you're lecturing dboy about how "inefficient" city life is, you need to provide some quantifiable stats--this sword fight sees you forgetting that poorer upstate communities are subsidized by the generation of tax dollars. In turn, we buy upstate-grown goods, which is a financial win-win; it's not like we need to be "grateful" because you're sharing your bounty with us uncompensated. Many more of us use public transportation or bicycles, and we share municipal resources over a large land mass for many more citizens, as opposed to each upstate burg and county needing their own, individual governments.

But this is part and parcel of the stupid upstate/downstate "struggle," much of it manufactured as a 'divide and conquer" by electeds. Sorry you're falling for it, but the piety is a little rich.

Mar. 15 2013 01:30 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Jim - Let's just remember that you and I fund the DEC with our tax dollars so they can help legislate in favor of big business here. They've done so consistently, and even though Pete Grannis is out of the picture, I don't expect that to change.

But I will only tinker with your statement a bit: cities like NYC make for efficient, collective use of resources, by and large. Otherwise, we'd all be scattered around the state, each person with their own car, individual/inefficient housing and share very little.

The city's existence itself has little to do with "food production policies," as those lie largely with the feds. The feds subsidize factory farms, and sway bodies like the DEC to lower standards to enhance profits. NYC also pays for water by the gallon. The ugly history of bringing water to NYC from upstate aside (and honestly, the small springs Manhattan enjoyed were polluted or filled in by the 1700s), we also employ the largest number of people per capita and send more tax dollars back to Albany for distribution statewide than any other municipality--quite a lot of those jobs lay in building this water system still.

Our common enemy is industry, which doesn't pay for water by the gallon--just a small permitting fee that allows them to take all they wish. Expect hydrofracking to raise consumer water rates dramatically, statewide. I've read the permitting and environmental "standards," and they're not going to be good for anyone but industry.

Mar. 15 2013 01:22 PM

I think the using word "elitist" misses the point - it says, I think, "out of my range so I won't bother." Or narrow minded. And a wise ancestor said to me, "When you're bored, you're boring!"

Mar. 15 2013 01:19 PM


You are welcome to visit, although I tend to use a bicycle more than the car. You often complain about food prices, food quality, and korporate amerika. Valid concerns, but it seems to me that people who choose to live in places like NYC should be grateful that the rest of the world still manages to keep them fed at all. A high percentage of car-free inhabitants does not make NYC a healthy ecosystem -- and keeping 10 million people juiced up with power, iPhones, food, recreational drugs, and water is, frankly, not possible without korporate production and distribution. It is frustrating for people like me, who choose to live in a more locally sustainable ecosystem, to have fewer land-use rights than Korporate Food LLC. I would be happy to sell you a bag of organic food at a low price. If only I could.

Mar. 15 2013 01:13 PM
Jf from Common sense

You can't think of a good farm bill? Really? How about switching the subsidies from non local pesticide food to organic local food. Duh!

Mar. 15 2013 01:06 PM

When do we get to Post Local?!?!?!

Mar. 15 2013 01:03 PM

Jim ~

Shall we all move up, next to you and buy automobiles to get around??

Mar. 15 2013 12:45 PM

Hey closed-minded people - how's THIS for an idea to consider - that is known outside of your imagination - look up Pi Gu or Bi Gu - a fast technique that's very old, from China, done with Chi Gong - historically used in times of struggle in China when food was hard to get

Mar. 15 2013 12:45 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Now they're pushing "smart refrigerators?" How about just looking inside? Ugh.

Mar. 15 2013 12:42 PM


Also, how we can be food stable when the DEC will not let people like me dig a crop irrigation pond because I am near a watershed and all of our upstate water is owned by NYC. Only Big Ag can get permission to do anything. Sadly, population centers like NYC are antithetical to sensible food production policies.

Mar. 15 2013 12:42 PM
Mia M from Brooklyn

Good discussion. Like the inclusion of global issues. But as Dan just said, in the future not everyone in the world can or will want to (or will be able to) eat like Americans now, with huge amounts of meat and dairy. Climate change and the increasing scarcity of resources indicate a more plant-based future global cuisine. See how these issues are playing out in China, India, Brazil, and Ethiopia in multimedia research from Brooklyn-based action tank, Brighter Green here:

Mar. 15 2013 12:41 PM

I love listening to cooks talk vauge about science.

Mar. 15 2013 12:40 PM

"Local" also produces a MUCH higher restaurant tab!!

Mar. 15 2013 12:38 PM


"Elitist", indeed.

Mar. 15 2013 12:37 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

anonyme - Grow up. These aren't "new ideas," but they're highly profitable for this trio! Those of us with common sense understand what constitutes "good" and "whole" food.

Mar. 15 2013 12:36 PM
Jf from The future

Organic food, formally known as food. Traditional medicine formally known as cannabis. Ancien foods will be popular in when ii was born.

Mar. 15 2013 12:36 PM

Oaxacans DO NOT eat cockroaches!!!

Mar. 15 2013 12:36 PM


Mar. 15 2013 12:34 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Ask them how New York State is going to be "food stable" when we're planning to give away our great tap water and loads of land over to hydrofracking? It'll be akin to Fukishima!

Mar. 15 2013 12:34 PM

dboy and all of you people whose minds shut down with the hint of a new idea NOT AN ARTIST AMONG YOU!!! Cut it out.

Mar. 15 2013 12:32 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

illfg - Indeed! But first, we have to stop pumping chemicals into the earth itself--we've destroyed the nutrients in most agricultural soil via the post-war pesticide approach, factory farming!

Blowhard pontificators here. Stone Barns is beautiful, but it's fairly manufactured.

Mar. 15 2013 12:32 PM
JL from NJ

I end up choosing alot of my diet, not by what it is (like a superfood) so much as what it isn't.

Is it from China? Does it have mercury? is it GMO? Were the workers compensated fairly? Was it grown in or near a polluted city? Does it encourage our current system of corrupt corporate welfare?

These are the things in my mind as I'm at the market. (One result -- I've lost 20 pounds I didn't know I had to lose -- but feel and look a lot better and stronger -- which is one reason I make the effort. It's also great to be able to vote at the supermarket.

Mar. 15 2013 12:32 PM

Earl Butz is singlehandedly responsible for destroying America's health.

Just say NO! to industrial food production...

...and elitest culinary naval gazing!!

Mar. 15 2013 12:32 PM
Anne from Miami Beach (but from CT)

Certainly one of the most unintelligent conversations -- in tone -- I've heard on Leonard Lopate. A rare miss. Dave sounds like a useless blowhard who is totally talking out of his #$3. Stop yapping and listen for a change. I've heard better on Fox. This trio is insufferable.

Mar. 15 2013 12:31 PM

In the future, there will be more people, less water ...and less food. Food riots anyone?

Mar. 15 2013 12:31 PM
Lenna from LES

Your guest says "how is that going to change" when it comes to money in politics. CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM

Mar. 15 2013 12:31 PM

Oh what a delight to have Dan Barber on! Love love your TED talk about foie gras - but I wanted to put on the comment was folks, who knows the sheep farm in NJ - valley shepherd? AMAZING local cheese. Worth its price. Mmmm

Mar. 15 2013 12:30 PM

Best cheeses in New England? Are they making raw milk cheese? I used to love cheese, but after eating cheese in France, I could no longer find cheese that I like in NY.

Mar. 15 2013 12:29 PM

thatgirl from manhattan - exactly. what goes INTO cows affects their milk, which affects their cheese, butter, etc.. more evidence we need a major rehaul in the US food system.

Mar. 15 2013 12:29 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Jim - Good point! Most people don't know that all of Whole Foods prepared foods (on the salad bars, hot tables, etc. are ALL from SYSCO!

Chris from CA - I couldn't agree more! Perhaps a little media training would make them sound more like people imparting important information, rather than sounding like a Morning Zoo radio bunch for 14-year olds.

Mar. 15 2013 12:28 PM

who are these clowns? a chef is gonna comment of a study? lol.. wow

Mar. 15 2013 12:28 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Actually, different regional grasses make a bigger difference in butter taste than the type of cow. France's gastronomic history has long established this.

Mar. 15 2013 12:26 PM

The Atkins diet is not a all steak diet. obviously its the but of jokes but the premise of the diet is controling insulin through whole foods, low processed food, avoidance of sugar and refined carbohydrates. eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, Olive Oils, fish, dairy and whole grains in moderation IS the Atkins diet. All current diets are based on the Atkins Maintenance Plan.

Mar. 15 2013 12:26 PM

"Single udder butter"!!!???


Please stop with this elitist nonsense?!?!?

Mar. 15 2013 12:25 PM
chris from CA

Can they talk without being clownish? so disappointing. It ends up being one of those conversations of privileged people who feel bad about being privileged...

Mar. 15 2013 12:23 PM

Nathan Myhrvold is also a patent troll.

Mar. 15 2013 12:18 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

I thought about it, and I would prefer to take all meals in pill form. If I didn't have to ever eat, I wouldn't ever eat. I could easily live without chewing, swallowing and using the bathroom.

Mar. 15 2013 12:17 PM


They sell their services to people who can afford to eat anything that they want. In 35 years, there will still be people who can afford to indulge their proclivity for real food, even if most people are eating Bloomberg approved Sysco produced synthetic food rations.

Mar. 15 2013 12:15 PM

Thought this might be an interesting segment - but it's just really SILLY... and boring


Mar. 15 2013 12:15 PM
Robert from NYC

Really! I don't think so. Did we know 30 years ago what we'd be eating today? The movement started maybe 20 years ago, maybe that's stretching it but 30 years ago we had no idea that we'd be eating and the growth of eating locally and the overabundance (and many overrated) "celebrity chefs". Friends, you have NO idea what we'll be eating in 30 years. More than likely could be pills as that's the way healthcare has gone, there's a pill for everything and allows one to "live with" their respective condition. It's all marketing and mirrors and magic.

Mar. 15 2013 09:37 AM

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