Ok. Full disclosure. I hated this guy. I get it. He is a trailblazer. That does not make him any less of a tyrant, egotist, condescending arrogant ass. Let me give you some of my reasoning.
The person under the microscope in episode 2 of Chefs Table is Dan Barber. Most notably, Dan runs a Manhattan eatery and an upstate New York farm/restaurant. He is a remarkably smart and successful restauranteur. His focus is, and he is known as an early pioneer of “Farm-to-table” dining. Put simply, this is a style of cooking and eating that focuses on what is fresh from local producers at any given time of year. Less supermarket and more farmers market focused.
Dan is a cultivated and well-trained chef. He studied and worked in Paris as a young cook. He then worked as a failed baker and a failed caterer. He teamed up with his brother to save the family farm. A great way to do that was to pair Dan’s penchant for cooking with the resources of fresh meat, dairy, eggs, goats, pigs, etc. In the process of building his self-sustaining business, he has also developed partnerships with local cultivators and farmers who are able to provide Dan with scientifically bred produce. The one thing that all of this does is provide Dan with the best ingredients at all times.
I will say again. Dan is smart and well studied and obviously brilliant at cultivating relationships with growers and has a solid and focused vision when he creates his meals and the restaurants that serve them. But I still hate him.
Early on in this episode, we are treated to an overbearing explanation as to why he is so brilliant. This is provided by those around him and by Dan himself. He is condescending when it comes to “his” process. He is arrogant in how he both presents himself and his own dishes. In contrast to the first episode, which I loved and found Massimo absolutely charming, Dan seems to be the antithesis of that. Dan is hell-bent on showing people what idiots they are for their eating habits. So much so that when you sit down for an appetizer at his Stone Farm location you are treated to a presentation of fresh vegetables that have had nothing else done to them other than being served up on spikes.
It is just too heavy-handed for me. This vegetable is going to be the most amazing thing you have ever had in your mouth. You’re welcome! Now, pay me for enlightening you to the joy of garden fresh vegetables.
Is the overall message, “When you treat nature well it gives you good food” good. Yes. Is he employing great resources to remind the public that by investing in our farmers and local resources we will all benefit? Yes. Do I still think this guy is the epitome of navel-gazing pomposity? YES! God, I hate it when someone makes me use all caps.
Anyway, my distaste for Dan should not stop you from appreciating the detail that has gone into this episode. From the music to the beautiful showcasing of the natural environments that surround the farms and meals that Dan is putting forth. So thank you Netflix for making me hate-watch this horrible person and still feel like I was not cheated out of my time.