For a true farm-to-table experience, visit Napa Valley’s Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead in St. Helena, Calif. The sustainable food, wine and agricultural center is a multi-use facility, including Farmstead restaurant, a winery, vegetable gardens, a seasonal farm stand, a floral design shop and unique event spaces.
At the center of the 650-acre organic ranch’s operations is Stephen Barber, director of culinary operations and executive chef of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. Raised in Kentucky, Barber brings a touch of his Southern roots to the American farmhouse cooking style of Farmstead. The outdoor smoker is a clear indication of Barber’s barbecue-inspired influence. Each dish served, and likely expedited by Barber himself, incorporates the Ranch’s organic produce, grass-fed beef and lamb, eggs and olive oil, as well as other local artisanal products. All pair perfectly, of course, with the wines produced on site.
Working at a farm-to-table operation, Barber operates on the philosophy of allowing the gardens to tell him what to cook. Before joining Farmstead in 2011, Barber was chef at Fish Story in Napa and executive chef at MECCA in San Francisco, where he received three stars from The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2007, Barber opened BarbersQ in Napa. He began his career at City Grocery, a renowned Mississippi restaurant, under Chef John Currence before moving to Miami to work under Chef Norman Van Aken at his eponymous Norman’s. Van Aken later brought Barber on as opening chef de cuisine for Bambu restaurant.
In a food mecca like the Napa Valley, Barber and Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead manage to stand out among some of the finest in the country. Pairing the advantages of fresh, readily available ingredients with respect for the flavors and ingenuity, simple food finds a delicious balance.
What are three go-to ingredients you always have in your home kitchen?
I cook simply at home, always with a protein. On hand, we have chicken and grass-fed beef from Long Meadow Ranch. A roast chicken is a go-to. I always have an array of spices; these make things interesting, like vindaloo and berbere. With flour and egg in the kitchen, I can make fresh pasta, which is a favorite of my little guy.
What’s your favorite season for cooking, and why?
In Northern California, it has to be summer, with the abundance of fresh produce available. It’s such an exciting time, from the heirloom tomatoes and peaches to purple basil, apricots, fresh herbs and more.
Aside from your current position, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
Working as a line cook at Norman’s in Miami. As a young chef, I was coming up surrounded by serious food people, and I was able to hone and develop my techniques.
What’s the first meal you ever cooked?
I was young, and it was barbecued chicken, nothing too exciting, but prepared on a grill, as I was learning about charcoal cooking.
Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead
738 Main St.
St. Helena, CA 94574
tel 707 963 4555
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