It’s hard to think of Alice Waters without also thinking about organic food, community gardens and farmers cooperatives. All have become synonymous with the petite but dynamic chef whose idea for a simple and warm gathering place for food lovers has blossomed into a full-fledged movement.
Chez Panisse began as Waters’ attempt to recreate the love of food, in all its forms, that she encountered during a trip to France, where groups of friends and family routinely shopped local farmers’ markets, and then washed, prepared, cooked and ate the meals emerging from these ingredients in a spirit of sharing and mutual love of food. A product of the 1960s, (Waters graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where free speech and anti-war sentiments swept the student body) Waters has always pushed the boundaries of what restaurants—and chefs—can do. She has been a proponent of organic farming, which reduces waste and pesticide use to produce more natural fruits and vegetables, and has spoken out against hormone and antibiotic use in agriculture.
Waters’ passion for appreciating the most natural ingredients the earth has to offer, in their most unadulterated form, has found its way to the White House, as well. Soon after moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, First Lady Michelle Obama created the an organic garden with the help of school children. Focusing on the next generation, and teaching them the value of growing the ingredients they eat, is part of Waters’ ever-growing influence on American dining.
IF I WERE TO DIE TOMORROW, I’D WANT TO EAT TODAY: “What would I want to eat today? Chesapeake Bay crab soup. I was in Virginia last week, and my friend cooked it in a big pot in an open fireplace—I can’t think of anything better.”