Professional Chef Spotlight - Alice Waters

Alice Waters: California Dreamer

May 19th, 2011

The vision for Alice Waters' restaurant, Chez Panisse, was born out of her desire to make customers feel as if they're dining in her home.

How Did Alice Waters Start Her Culinary Career?

With no culinary arts experience, the fading memory of a year of travel in France, and an idealistic and wistful desire to reprise the feeling of French bistro dining, Alice Waters' culinary career began when she and several friends opened Chez Panisse in 1971.

Located in Berkeley, Chez Panisse celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. The restaurant features a fixed-price menu; meals change daily with culinary arts creations that showcase fresh in-season produce and the finest meat, fish, and poultry. In 1980, Alice opened the Café at Chez Panisse. A stand-up breakfast and lunch cafe, Fanny, named for Alice's daughter, opened in West Berkeley in 1984.

Why is Alice Waters Famous?

Generally credited with being the creator of California Cuisine, Alice is a proponent of farmer's markets, organic produce, and sustainable agriculture. Widely recognized by the culinary arts community, she has written or co-authored eight cookbooks in her career. Chez Panisse Fruit, her most recently cookbook, also provides information about "what's in season, what it looks like when it's ripe, what the different varieties are and what they each taste like, and the reason that we need to buy them from local, organic suppliers."

What's Next in Alice's Culinary Arts Career?

She continues to crusade for "a hands-on understanding of where our food comes from, how it's produced, and the traditions and rituals of eating it." She actively supports and raises funding for the Edible Schoolyard Project, an organic school lunch program in California schools. According to Waters, "the purpose is to engage kids in the growing, the cooking, and the eating of their school lunches".

Alice also supports the Slow Food movement, which is everything fast food is not--individually prepared from fresh ingredients, locally grown and raised. She speaks out against bioengineering food and using harmful pesticides, while championing bio-diversity--helping to resurrect that enduring 60's slogan "you are what you eat."

Name: Alice Louise Waters
Born: April 28, 1944
Hometown: Chatham, NJ
Training: None
First Job: Owner/chef (Chez Panisse)


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