In the Global Age, the top superstar chefs now have empires stretching from both coasts of this country, with an additional obligatory outpost in Las Vegas. We are now on a first-name basis with many of these star chefs, like Nobu, Mario and Jean-Georges. There are no outposts of superstar chefs in the Berkshires. Instead, there is an unusual number of chef-owned restaurants, where on a daily basis working chefs filet fish, make sauces and cook the food you eat. On any given night, you can be fairly certain that the chef has actually prepared your meal.
When we think of culture in the Berkshires, we usually think of the area’s exceptionally diverse offerings of classical music, modern dance, classical and modern theatre and art museums. This is what enriches our lives, and why many of us are attracted to living here. The Food Culture in the Berkshires is likewise strong and deep. The quality of both farms and restaurants in the county is unusually high. How many other communities have a local dairy that bottles and delivers its own milk? Where else would a former newspaper publisher start a new venture that makes world-class blue cheese? How many other communities of similar size have as many highly reviewed, independently operated chef-owned restaurants?
Michael Ballon opened the Castle Street Café in 1989, next to the historic Mahaiwe Theater in downtown Great Barrington. The Café has received rave reviews from the day it opened. Previously, Ballon cooked in New York at Lavin’s, Sofi, Wood’s, the New York City Bar Association and Plums’, a full-service catering company. Michael is also The Roundtable Chef on WAMC public radio and his food essays appear in Berkshire Homestyle Magazine.