At Dan Barber's restaurants, the farm is the menu

Inside the kitchen at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Chef Dan Barber calls out orders not based on what diners requested, but based on what the farm harvested that day.

His methodology is redefining farm-to-table cooking, CBS News correspondent Don Dahler reports.

"We have no menus here," Chef Barber said. "There's been a lot of push back for a menu and people are paying a lot of money and they're waiting two months to come here tonight, so I see that. What I'm shocked about is the equal number of people who come here and say, 'Oh there's no menu? Oh, thank God I don't have to decide.'"

The restaurant deliberately avoids giving out menus, instead allowing the farm supplying the kitchen to dictate the meal.

"It's all about working with nature instead of imposing our diets on nature and expecting nature will produce what we want," Barber said.

The chef recently penned "The Third Plate: Field Notes on The Future of Food," a food manifesto calling for major changes in the American diet and how that food is grown.

"The Third Plate," Barber said, is "a metaphor for a way of eating for the future; a radical re-look at our expectations for dinner."

Instead of the typical American dinner - where the protein takes center stage, Barber asks Americans to make vegetables the main act.

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Veggies arranged to be served at Blue Hill
CBS News

"I don't love the angle of, 'the American diet needs to be more healthy,'" Barber said. "Because what's the definition of health? I don't know. I know it's less sugar, I guess, and probably a little less fat. But really it's about, what does the landscape wanna provide and how can our diets be fashioned to support that?"

Barber implements the "third plate" mentality at his two restaurants, Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantino Hills, New York.

The chef grew up on a farm where "locally grown" meant cooking with produce grown outside the kitchen door, guaranteeing the highest level of nutrition, and of course, flavor.

All his animals are raised humanely on the Stone Barns farm. His chickens are free-range.

"They like freedom," Barber said. "They get to eat want they want to eat and it produces a better tasting egg yolk."

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Eggs at Blue Hill
CBS News

For him, the soil is sacred, which means the all-stars of summer produce, tomatoes and corn, rarely earn a spot on Barber's ideal dinner plate. They require too much fertilizer and deplete the land.

"If you think of soil as a bank account and you're eating a tomato, a tomato is like the Hummer of the vegetable and fruit world," Barber said. "Everything we eat, wheat, corn, rice, the ones we really covet, these are the most expensive. These are the big withdrawals from the bank account."

Sustainability may be an investment, but Barber said the payoff is in flavor, and the future.

"The way to convince Americans that the future is going to be different for a plate of food, is through a delicious plate of food," Barber said. "I put my money on the idea that people are going to motivated to spend a little bit more money, potentially spend a little more time, sure. We're looking at more diversity, more flavor, more potential for more nutritious and delicious food. That's exciting."

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Diners at Blue Hill in Westchester
CBS News

Barber says this food revolution will have to be led by chefs like him. If diners like what they eat in restaurants, they might be willing to copy those dishes at home.

Americans have proven to have very adaptable pallets, embracing sushi, Creole cooking and other ethnic foods over a period of a few years.

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