"Because only slow food can teach us the things that really matter — care, beauty, concentration, discernment, sensuality, all the best that humans are capable of, but only if we take the time to think about what we're eating."

Happy birthday Alice Waters!

 

alice_watersAlice Waters (born April 28, 1944) is an American chef, restaurant-owner, activist, and author. She is most well known for founding Chez Panisse, a restaurant in Berkeley, California devoted to organic, locally grown ingredients. Waters is one of the most active members of the organic food movement, and has been dubbed the founder of modern American cooking.

 

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Waters was born in Chatham Borough, New Jersey. She studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley, she was highly involved in student civic life, influenced by student activist Mario Savio who emphasized the importance of free speech on campus. She worked on the campaign of politician Robert Scheer, often cooking for events, leading her to develop a reputation as a cook in addition to an activist. (Image source)

Waters' remembers her parents having a "victory garden," which were back yard vegetable gardens that American families were encouraged to develop to supplement food rations during the war. Her interest in food and food preparation really took off when she studied abroad in France, where she adopted the practice of cooking with farm and market-fresh food. She returned to Europe after graduating to learn more about French cuisine. 

"Let things taste of what they are."

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When she came back to Berkeley, she wrote a cooking column in a radical newspaper. By this time, she felt there was a growing demand for fresh food because her generation had become more exposed to the world's cuisines.

"I believe that every child in this world needs to have a relationship with the land...to know how to nourish themselves...and to know how to connect with the community around them."

In 1971, Waters borrowed $10,000 to start a restaurant to meet that demand, called Chez Panisse. The restaurant was opened in an old house on Shattuck avenue. The first few years were difficult for Waters, as she acted as the head chef and had to serve prix-fixe menu. But eventually, her craft and her beliefs about food began to accrue critical acclaim and support. By the end of the first decade, some of the chefs who had worked with Waters set off on their own paths to start their own restaurants in San Francisco, resulting in the naming of her brand as "new California." Waters soon opened a cafe upstairs from Chez Panisse as well.

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New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne wrote of Waters: "Where American gastronomy is concerned, there is one commodity that is rarer than locally grown black truffles or homemade foie gras. That is a chef of international repute who was born in the United States. Even rarer is such a celebrated chef who is a woman."

She has condemned the proliferation of fast food in schools and in 1996, Waters started a program called Edible Schoolyards. The program teaches students to grow and prepare food while also incorporating school curriculum.

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She employed the same ideas at her daughter's college, Yale University, with the Yale Sustainable Food Project. The food in the program was meant to serve just one dining hall, but after its popularity became so overwhelming, the school expanded the program to include other dining halls on campus.

Waters has written several cookbooks and how-to's. She was inducted into the French Legion of Honor in 2009, was given the Global Environmental Citizen Award by Harvard Medical School along with Kofi Annan in 2008, was listed in 2002 as the Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation, and has received many other awards and recognitions.

"Change the food in the schools and we can influence how children think. Change the curriculum and teach them how to garden and how to cook and we can show that growing food and cooking and eating together give lasting richness, meaning, and beauty to our lives."

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 28 April 2014
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