Just because farm-to-table has become an overused buzzword doesn’t mean our work in that arena is done. Far from it, says Dan Barber, whose visionary 14-year-old West Village restaurant Blue Hill propelled him to a leadership role within the locavore movement. Barber later opened Blue Hill Stone Barns, which exists on and is supplied by a Hudson Valley farm. For the lifespan of each of his restaurants, he has been exploring the relationship between land and cuisine, a quest that has had some profound effects on his menus and outlook. That’s not what earns him the Best Chef mantle this year, though; nor is it a reinvention, a new restaurant, or a pioneering new technique. Rather, we bestow this honor upon Barber for what he has contributed to the restaurant industry’s thought capital with his book The Third Plate, a provocative blueprint for a new American cuisine that is optimistic in answering one of the biggest questions of our time: How will we continue to feed people when we’ve set up a system that’s unsustainable? The book makes his restaurants look underrated, and it serves as a rallying call to a higher purpose for all chefs of this generation — and it locks Barber into a role as one of the most influential culinary thinkers, and chefs, of our time.