Chef Dan Barber’s finger-food lessons. As told to F&W’s Kate Krader
Illustration © Lauren Tamaki.
After we opened Blue Hill in New York City in 2000, I decided to do a Valentine’s Day menu with no silverware. It’s an idea I essentially ripped off from Alain Rondelli, a brilliant chef in San Francisco in the very early 1990s. His food was quite traditional, but then he’d do these incredibly iconoclastic things, like have a waiter walk around the dining room with just-spun cotton candy. In 2012, that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but back then it was fantastic. I saw how happy everyone was, and I equated no silverware with being happy at a restaurant.
Then I tried it as a full meal for Valentine’s Day at Blue Hill. It was a fun idea, but miserably executed. We served distracting dishes, like sweetbreads skewered on something like cinnamon sticks. Instead of being about love and looking at each other, it was just messy.