Chez Panisse Turns 40! So…40 Delicious Reasons to Love Alice Waters!

Whether you’ve set foot in Alice Waters’ Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, read any of her cookbooks or never even heard of her before now, you’ve most likely been affected by her love of food and uncompromising passion for quality. She is to American cooking what Neil Armstrong is to the moon (except she’d never travel that far to find something fresh and delicious to eat). There are hundreds of reasons to love Alice, but in celebration of Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary, we give you our 40 most delicious…

1. Before becoming a well-known chef, she was an activist that supported the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley.
2. She was also a trained Montessori schoolteacher.
3. Alice credits the kind people of Turkey with imbuing her with an approach to hospitality and respect for local communities.
4. Chez Panisse is named for a kind old character in the beautiful film trilogy by Marcel Pagnol: Marius, Fanny and César.
5. She founded Chez Panisse as a place to entertain her friends.
6. Alice built a network of local farmers for her ingredients, many of which she still works with 40 years later!
7. Heirloom tomatoes would not likely be as popular today if it were not for Alice’s influence on quality food.
8. She can cook almost anything over an open flame without burning it.
9. Alice is a committed organic foodie, helping to move the industry into the mainstream.
10. The Edible Schoolyards Program in Berkeley and around the country is the brainchild of Alice.
11. She was the first woman to win the title of “Best Chef in America.”
12. Alice was the only woman to win the lifetime achievement award given by the S. Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants association.
13. Inductee to the California Hall of Fame.
14. One of the ten best chefs in the world in 1986 by Cuisine et Vins de France.
15. How’s this for a nickname: ‘The Mother of American Cooking’.
16. Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook has been named one of the 50 best cookbooks of all time.
17. Chez Panisse Foundation, established 1996.
18. The planting of The Obama White House Garden was urged by Alice during a 2009 60 Minutes segment.
19. Alice is working on a policy program to offer free healthy lunches to students across the country.
20. Vice President of Slow Food International.
21. She helped create the Yale Sustainable Food Project.
22. At the request of filmmaker Werner Herzog, Alice cooked his shoe for the film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.
23. Alice is the Visiting Dean at the French Culinary Institute.
24. She’s been spotted (by this writer) wandering around Los Angeles’ Hollywood Farmers Markets sampling seasonal fruits and veggies as if she’s not Alice Waters!
25. The Art of Simple Food is just that—an art and a beautiful one at that.
26. She’s said, “Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.”
27. And, ” What we are calling for is a revolution in public education — a real Delicious Revolution. When the hearts and minds of our children are captured by a school lunch curriculum, enriched with experience in the garden, sustainability will become the lens through which they see the world.”
28. And… “Our full humanity is contingent on our hospitality: We can be complete only when we are giving something away; when we sit at the table and pass the peas to the person next to us we see that person in a whole new way.”
29. Alice recognizes that eating is the most intimate act in a human’s life—what we consume becomes us, therefore quality is everything.
30. Not only is what we eat important, but Alice also believes that presentation and surprise are key elements to the experience of eating.
31. Alice abhors microwaves.
32. Instead, she prefers simple cooking methods: Large metal spatula; a cast-iron skillet; a gas stove or open flame.
33. Fresh herbs are an integral and important part of a meal.
34. She believes salads are best when fresh—as in just picked.
35. Condiments are made, not bought.
36. Rearranged, “Alice Waters” spells: “Slice Raw Eat”
37. At 67, retirement is not even a thought for Alice.
38. Chez Panisse Foundation Mission: “Cultivating a New Generation.”
39. Her love for and uncompromising commitment to quality food has inspired and aided millions of others to pursue a pleasurable and healthy relationship with their food.
40. Alice and Chez Panisse are bound to get a lot better—they’ve only been at it for 40 years.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Photo: marioanima