Earlier this week a New York Times article announced the closing of Noma, consistently ranked among the top 50 restaurants in the world. Chef Rene Redzepi as the article title suggests plans to reopen in a different Copenhagen location in 2017. In the meantime, he and his team will be busy converting an urban ruin into an urban farm able to support the new restaurant fully committed to seasonal dining. American chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns sets similar ambitions, investing deeply in ingredients by employing on site farmers and farming. The “menus” at both begin with and stay true to the produce. For example, instead of traditional menus designed around dishes and techniques, the meal at Blue Hill is guided by “grazing, pecking and rooting” from greenhouse, field, pasture, forest, farm and cellar products.
This philosophy that dining begins with the ground depends on a creative and intimate understanding of place, seasons, processes of growing, cooking and eating of each diverse ingredient. These chefs, push the idea of “farm to table,” slow and local dining to the experimental extreme by including the farm, in form and content, as the restaurant experience. The challenge to convert a historically domestic practice of garden eating to a professional standard of consistency requires tremendous forethought and faith in the ability to quite literally grow quality products. I can’t tell if these are exercises in hubris or humility. Perhaps, both?