For over 40 years, Alice Waters and her team of world-class chefs have been running one of the country’s most celebrated five-star restaurants: Chez Panisse. Located in Berkeley, California, the menu of this quaint bistro is anything but ordinary. That’s because it changes everyday based on what’s readily available from local farmers. “I don’t really know until I come in and look at the list from the garde manger exactly what I'm going to make,” Waters says. “(That way) you have the greatest possibility of serving food that is really ripe and at its peak…and it’s evident to the people who are coming in the restaurant.”
See also: Eat for a healthy heart.
Having no restaurant experience when she first opened the cozy café back in 1971, her hard work and devotion to healthy eating have made Chez Panisse a Mecca for those believing in simply cooked, fresh food. It’s all part of her mission to change the way Americans eat. Unlike most restaurants, here the organic vegetables and spices are the leading players, with meats playing more of a supporting role for both health and sustainability issues.
But her eating revolution isn’t limited to her restaurant alone. She’s taking her fresh food mission to schoolyards and cafeterias across America in hopes of educating the next generation on healthier and simpler eating habits. As part of her Edible Schoolyard projects, students grow their own food and discover how to prepare it in a healthier and more appealing way than they’ve ever experienced before. “We’re talking about an activity that we do every single day, if we are lucky. We eat. And we need to eat with intention and pleasure.”
To honor Alice Waters’ commitment to local and organic food, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a photographic portrait of the food pioneer to be created as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the restaurant’s founding. The portrait will be on display at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
My Generation went behind the kitchen door to see how this revolutionary chef is changing the way we think about food.