Dan Barber Steps Away from Blue Hill at Stone Barns, with Pivot to Chefs in Residence Program

When his Michelin-starred restaurants reopen next year, Barber won't be in the kitchen — but he didn't rule out a return.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been tumultuous for restaurateurs and their staffs, with locations forced to close, then allowed to reopen, only to close again as cases of coronavirus spike in certain areas.

It's no wonder, then, that some chefs have shuttered their restaurants entirely. But the crisis is also providing some established eateries an opportunity to rethink how business is done. And this week, we learned the Michelin-starred Blue Hill at Stone Barns will undergo a major revamp as Dan Barber steps down from his role in the kitchen.

Dan Barber at Blue Hill
The Washington Post / Contributor/Getty Images

In a letter to staff on Sunday night, Barber announced that he would be stepping away from the kitchens at both Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY, and Blue Hill in Greenwich Village.

The new model will be a diversity-focused chef-in-residence concept, letting four guest chefs take the helm—one each season—with Barber saying "the kitchen and the cuisine will be theirs." The changeover is slated to take place when Blue Hill opens for full dine-in service at some point in 2021. Both Blue Hill at Stone Barns and the Blue Hill location in Manhattan will also not use the "Blue Hill" name throughout 2021, the Times reports.

"This came about because we have been reflecting on this moment in time and where a restaurant belongs in our culture," Dan Barber told the Times. "The staff has been pushing some of the issues." However, the idea of a residency program had been in the works prior to the pandemic, he said.

"There has been a reckoning in our industry, and we've heard and discussed many pointed, structural questions about the system that we uphold, especially about racial and gender inequities," Barber wrote in his letter, according to Eater. "Becoming truly conscious of how I've both benefited from and contributed to that system is a process that is long overdue. And I know that this recognition means little unless I actually put it to use through concrete actions. I'm learning about structural changes that we need to make in order to ensure that at the heart of all of our future work we build a community and a culture that are supportive, equitable and diverse."

Since opening in 2004, the critically-acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns has topped many lists of the best restaurants in the country and world and earned a spot on Michelin's two-star list last year. The restaurant sourced its produce from the farm grounds around the restaurant and is noted for its hours-long, multi-course menus highlighting seasonal ingredients. Its namesake, Blue Hill, opened in Manhattan in 2000. Both locations have switched to selling delivery and takeout boxes of food since shutting down dining due to the pandemic.

As for the future, Barber left the option of reopening on the table, but did not confirm any decisions at the moment.

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