If you were to ask me to name my favourite chef, it wouldn't be a Londoner, despite the amount of time I spend among the prodigious and rightly heralded culinary talent this city has to offer.
That 'honour' belongs to Dan Barber, who arrives in London for the first time in February with a pop-up dedicated to fighting food waste, located on the rooftop of Selfridges. It marks the first time he's cooked in this city, and has sent ripples of excitement through the chef community. He's the man many consider to be the world's foremost farm-to-table chef, with a restaurant in the World's 50 Best list on a farm in upstate New York, which also happens to be attached to an educational centre for sustainable food.
If you want to know what Barber's about (and you can't justify a trip to either of his restaurants, in Manhattan or the Hudson Valley) watch his Chef's Table episode on Netflix, or listen to a podcast he's contributed to. If you really want to dive in, read his book The Third Plate. It reveals the workings of a true polymath – someone who's singularly committed to changing perceptions about how chef and diner can participate in a conversation that ends up changing not just the way we eat, but the way we farm, too. This is all while barely missing a service at his lauded restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
For wastED – a continuation of the hugely successful pop-up he's run in Manhattan – Barber's swapping Stone Barns for local fishmongers, butchers and other suppliers to showcase dishes made with traditionally wasted food, proving you don't need your own farm to have a positive effect on your food chain. He's also enlisting some of London's best-known chefs to help him, including Clare Smyth, Jason Atherton and Tom Hunt.
We wrote much about the reconnection many diners are making with where their food comes from in foodism's special, sustainability-themed issue last September. To that end, there's arguably no chef better placed to use food as a vehicle for true education. If you're someone who longs for change in food and farming, get excited.
wastED London takes place from 24 February-2 April. For more info or to reserve places, go to selfridges.com/wastedlondon