Alice Waters is a California culinary legend. Waters’ acclaimed Berkeley-based restaurant Chez Panisse and her status as one of the organic food movement’s founders make her a force to be reckoned with.She’s something of a superstar: Waters was named Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation, Vice President of Slow Food International, and the 40-year old Chez Panisse was awarded the title of Best Restaurant in America. She’s “a visionary, a pioneer, the Mother of American cooking, and the most important figure in the culinary history of North America.” And on Tuesday, November 9, at 8 pm, she will grace Scripps’s Garrison Theater with her presence.
Since Waters’ foray into California cooking, pesticide-free, seasonal, locally grown produce has become ubiquitous. Eating organic, Waters made the nation realize, is essential for capturing natural flavors of produce and ensuring the health of both the environment and consumers. What many of us now take for granted when we eat from Collins’ Farm-to-Fork area was made possible by Waters’ eco-crusades.
Waters’ activism extends beyond the kitchen. The Edible Schoolyard is Waters’ way of spreading her culinary credo to young students, who may contribute to a more sustainable future for food. In 1996, Waters built a 1-acre garden adjacent to a kitchen classroom at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School. The Edible Schoolyard now involves 1,000 students in an experiential learning program about the food cycle. There are now 5 Edible Schoolyards in New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Berkeley, and Greensboro, NC.
The School Lunch Initiative is another of Waters’ extraordinary efforts with the Center for Ecoliteracy to provide children with proper nutrition and bring them closer to the roots of what they eat. Waters has inspired Americans to confront the nation’s complex problems with food, such as childhood obesity. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign publicly channels Waters while working in the White House garden.
Whether or not you’ve tasted the butternut squash soup (divine) at Chez Panisse, Waters’ food credo deserves Claremont’s attention. “I believe that how you eat, and how you choose your food, is an act which combines the political—your place in the world of other people—with the most intensely personal—the way you use your mind and your senses for the gratification of the soul,” Waters has said. “It can change the way we treat each other, and it can change the world.”