Lydia Ratcliff, Vermont Farmer Beloved by Famous Chefs, Dies at 84

Her products were in high demand among culinary leaders at New York City’s finest restaurants

Writer and small-town farmer Lydia Ratcliff has died at the age of 84 after a long battle with emphysema, The New York Times reports. She made a career of ghostwriting a finance column for Sylvia Porter at the New York Post and later moved to Andover, Vermont, to start Lovejoy Brook dairy farm.

Ratcliff’s meats and cheeses were beloved by some of the finest chefs at high-end restaurants in New York City. Daniel, Jean Georges, 21 Club, Chanterelle, and Grammercy Tavern were some of her most prestigious clients.

“We like the fact that the animals are being raised properly, that they are not injected with hormones. It’s all that good, clean Vermont air,” Tom Colicchio, who at the time headed the kitchen at Gramercy Tavern, told Seven Days in 2002. “They are a little more expensive, but it is also better meat. And we charge a little more.”

lydia ratcliff

Jenny Attiyeh

It’s even rumored that Ratcliff would travel from the slaughterhouses to the city carrying bloody carcasses to deliver directly to the chefs.

“It was a ragtag operation,” her brother John Ratcliff told The New York Times. “But Lydia would arrive at these world-class restaurants in her blood-soaked pants with a Louis Vuitton briefcase under her arm, speaking French and Italian to the chefs.”

The farm-to-table virtuoso is survived by her brother John and her sister Alexandra Richardson.

For more on what goes on behind the scenes at some of the country’s fanciest restaurants, here are 10 celebrity chefs who actually cook in their restaurants.