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Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution

BY RUTH REICHL

Alice Waters lies in bed at night worrying about what to feed you. She knows that she can make you happy. She also knows, in her hidden heart, that if she can find the perfect dish to feed each person who comes to her door, she can change the world.

Every great cook secretly believes in the power of food. Alice Waters just believes this more than anybody else. She is certain that we are what we eat, and she has made it her mission in life to make sure that people eat beautifully. Waters is creating a food revolution, even if she has to do it one meal at a time.

Alice didn’t set out to change the way America eats. She just wanted to feed her friends. Having been to France, she had seen the way a good bistro could become the heart of a neighborhood, a place where people went for comfort and sustenance. She was not a professional cook, but she enjoyed feeding people, and she envisioned a cozy little café, which would be open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a place where everyone from the dishwashers to the cooks would be well-paid, a sort of endless party where everyone would have fun. Reality soon set in. Faced with financial ruin, Chez Panisse was forced to become a real business. Still, the dream did not die. It just changed.

“I was more obsessed,” Alice explains. If she was going to have a restaurant, it was going to be the very best one she could possibly manage. Even if that meant rethinking the whole concept of what a restaurant might be.

She began with the ingredients. Every chef dreams of great produce, but most make do with what is available in the market. Not Alice. Disgusted with the fish that was sold in stores, she bought a truck and sent someone down to the port to find fishermen as they docked their boats. When she could not find the baby lettuces she had loved in France, she tore up her backyard and grew her own. She found foragers to hunt for mushrooms. She persuaded farmers to let their lambs run wild through the hills. She demanded better bread. Before long, she had developed an entire network of people producing food just for her.

The results were electric. Chez Panisse served only one meal a day, but people reserved months ahead of time and took their chances. You would find them shaking their heads over the menu, wailing, “Chicken? I’ve come all the way from Maine for chicken?” Then the dish would arrive, and they’d look down with dismay and say, “It’s just a piece of chicken,” as if they had somehow expected the poor bird to turn into a swan as it cooked. But they’d waited months for the reservation, so they would take a bite of the chicken and a sort of wonder would come over their faces. “It’s the best chicken I have ever tasted,” they’d whisper reverently. “I never knew that food could taste so good.”

And Alice, walking by, would smile her secret little smile. Because once again, she had done it. She had given them food that they would remember, a taste that would linger long beyond that night. And they would know, ever after, how a chicken raised in the open air, fed on corn, and cooked with care, could taste.

She knew that they would carry that flavor away with them, and that every time they ate a chicken, no matter where it might be, they would remember.

And if Alice had her way, they would go looking for that chicken – or that tomato, or that strawberry – until they found it. Because she had given them more than a meal – she had given them a memory.

There is only one Chez Panisse. In this age of multiple restaurants, the restaurant has no clones in London, Las Vegas, or Tokyo. Because Alice Waters has more than money on her mind. And she has now turned her attention to the next generation. Her latest project? Feeding the children. She wants every school in America to have a garden and every child to have an opportunity to discover the taste of fresh food.

Her fight goes on. Her revolution continues. She knows that all it takes is one taste. It just has to be the right one.

This essay has been excerpted from AMERICAN GREATS, by Robert Wilson and Stanley Marcus (The Perseus Books Group, 2000)


Major funding for Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution is provided by Feast it Forward.

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Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation and public television viewers.

Transcript Print

♪♪ il tune ] -Alice, in her quest, has changed the world, in an extraordinary way.

I remember being with Alice in an airplane, flying back from San Diego and Chino Ranch, and Alice had a flat of strawberries on her lap at a time when the strawberries in America were like Styrofoam.

They were big and hard and, when you cut them open, they were white in the middle and they had no fragrance at all.

And Alice had strawberries which were red to the core and amazingly fragrant.

And, as we sat on the plane, the smell of these berries started drifting through the airplane.

And, one by one, people came up to Alice and started begging for her strawberries.

And Alice is giving these strawberries away and watching dessert at the restaurant vanish.

She turned to me and said, 'You know, we're really on to something here.

If you give people a great strawberry, they understand how different it is.

And we've gotta bring this flavor back to America.'

And that's what her restaurant did.

-Well, I'm just convinced that having this understanding about food will change the way we live in this world.

And I'm really on a mission to -- to engage people in this way.

♪♪ ♪♪ -'A delicious revolution': it's a wonderful phrase.

And I think it speaks to the fact that, in the realm of food, doing the right thing is pleasurable.

And that caring about food and knowing where it comes from has these very positive environmental and social ramifications.

So you can sort of have your cake and eat it, too.

-There are chefs in every corner of the globe who have said to me, 'Do you know Alice Waters?'

There is no more influential person in American food.

♪♪ -How are we supposed to live our lives?

How should we eat?

How do the choices we make about food affect our fellow humans and the land that we live on?

I think food just opens your senses and opens your mind.

And it's an activity that we do every day and it can really enrich your life, your everyday life.

I thought I would make a confit of tomatoes.

It's just tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

And the idea is that you can use the very, very ripe -- overripe tomatoes to make it.

♪♪ With the olive oil and the garlic and the basil in the bottom, you cook them very slowly for about an hour and a quarter.

You can use it as a tomato sauce for just about anything.

I use it for a pasta sauce.

It has just this aroma, fragrance, that comes from the long cooking.

I think, when you eat the same thing every day, it sort of dulls your senses.

And so when something really good comes along, you miss it.

And another experience about food is changing as the seasons are changing, and you're experiencing the whole range of different foods and tastes out there in the world that you have a very different experience in your life.

And it opens you up to seeing all kinds of things in a different way.

That sort of hamburger experience is so narrow and it just sort of narrows your thinking, in all ways.

It's not just about food.

It's about everything.

-Alice Waters has achieved a great deal.

She went from being a Montessori teacher to being one of the most unlikely restaurateurs in the history of the world.

No training, no administrative skills that anybody knew about, funny-lookin' clothes.

Shy, in a way, and, yet, forceful, when you get down to it.

-She was very interesting when I first met her.

She was really with this group who were rebellion at the University of California and she believed passionately, just like, you know, her feelings about food.

She had a passion for this.

And I don't think she ever really thought of Chez Panisse as a restaurant.

What she was really searching for was not a restaurant, but a place where she could feed this group of rebels.

♪♪ -Alice came out of movement.

The University of California, of course, in the '60s, was the center of the antiwar movement and other movements allied with it.

And Chez Panisse began as a kind of expression of that.

-There was a very interesting moment where food and politics intersected, and it happened at Berkeley, by and large.

It happened some other places, too.

But we seldom think about it this way, but the food revolution, which is to say, the rise of organic food and also the rise of a, you know, distinctly American cuisine that we've seen in the last 30 years, was a '60s movement.

It was part and parcel of feminism, of antiwar movement, of environmentalism, and organic food was -- it was called a countercuisine.

There was a counterculture and there should be a countercuisine to go with it.

-I didn't have any real vision about what the restaurant would be.

I just wanted a place to eat and to eat with my friends.

And I thought it could be a kind of social place for people who lived in North Berkeley.

I never imagined -- imagined that it was going to be anything other than that.

-When Alice opened Chez Panisse, I think she thought that she's traveled in France and she would come home and she would be able to cook real French food here.

And had the same disappointment that all of us who were cooking at home had, which was you couldn't make that food.

And the reason that you couldn't was because it was -- it depended on the products.

-Really, a whole new world opened up when I went to France.

♪♪ -[Conversing indistinctly] [ Laughter ] [ Laughter ] It was great, walking through the markets, the open markets, and seeing all the beautiful food and fruits and the vegetables and smelling it and there was something that caught my attention.

I had an awakening.

I, uh -- I think I had some sensual pleasures out in the vegetable garden when I was a child and, my family, well, they always had a garden.

My mother was very aware of nature and knew all the flowers and I was brought into that experience when I was young, but it wasn't until I went to France that my eyes were opened.

-[Conversing indistinctly] -The idea of starting with really great products, of that kind of innovation that Alice had, that simplicity, that is all very much Alice's legacy.

-That Roman squash.

-That'll be gone, pretty much.

-The cooks gather together each morning and try to decide how best to use the fruits and vegetables that arrived from the farms that morning.

-Well, like a 10-pound. Beautiful okra -- it's like purple and green.

It's really like pristine.

-The most important job in the restaurant, I think, is finding these ingredients and making a connection with the farmers and with the ranchers.

And...knowing how to work with them and how to help them to understand what we need to use and -- and -- and make that a really -- a partnership that we have.

Chez Panisse is in the middle of Berkeley, uh, in a city, and, uh, we can't have that really idyllic arrangement of a farm right outside the front door.

Now, we have a network of 75 different people that we buy things from.

And some of them have just one tree, of peaches.

And some bring in all the salads every day.

Like Bob Cannard.

-When I talk about a domestic garden, you need a little bit of a wide range of things.

And not really a crop-oriented farm, but a big, home garden.

Many different kinds of squashes and a handful of different varieties of onions and a bunch of different herbs and half a dozen different kinds of salad greens and maybe a few root vegetables.

And that's a domestic home garden, like a kitchen garden.

[ Tranquil tune plays ] -We decided to try to connect with the farmers who were actually growing some of the fruits and vegetables that we wanted to have at the restaurant.

If we could suggest varieties that were very tasty, we could have a kind of steady supply of things coming into the restaurant from a whole number of different people.

Because we have such beautiful vegetables for each season, we don't have to serve produce out of season.

-Well, we communicate all the time and I prepare availability lists for them and they kind of dream up things that they think I might be able to get for 'em.

But every picking day, an order comes in and gets it off the answering machine and, and, you know, it goes from there.

[ Beep ] -And I'll augment it a little bit and maybe I don't have something that they want, or enough of something, and so I'll jockey back and forth with them a few calls, maybe.

[ ] [Beep] -The raspberry that I picked for Chez Panisse, it was picked this morning; it'll be used this evening.

If it's not used this evening, well, they may reduce it to a sauce or make an ice cream or something like that out of it tomorrow.

But it won't be a full little raspberry for fresh table use tomorrow.

It's for tonight.

[ Birds tweeting ] ♪♪ -A lot of what being a good chef is, is choice, is saying, 'This is the week to serve these cherries and they're really perfect now and he-- I can't improve on this.

So here's a bowl of cherries.'

So I think it's more than aesthetic.

I think it's tied to the whole ethic of the restaurant, which is to break down the walls between the producers and the consumers of food.

♪♪ -Before the organic movement was really important, I watched Alice have these arguments with people who thought, 'Oh, it's, you know, you can't do that.'

And Alice said, 'Yes, you can.

You need to. It's important.'

That's very much in the air today.

It wasn't in the late '70s and early '80s.

Alice's model for running a restaurant is to think of the restaurant as part of its community and to think of what what you eat means, to the entire community and to the world.

And to think of how you behave, as a person and as a business, as having an impact on the world.

-There's a politics in that.

I mean, it's a very subtle, quiet politics, but it is politics and it has an impact.

You can follow it down this food chain back to the land.

And it begins with knowing the names of what you're eating and having a sense of its particular identity.

-They're from a -- they're like a Lebanese kind.

-And I have two cherry tomato; one red, one yellow.

[ Whirring nearby ] -Well, you've gotten better with the cherry tomatoes, for sure.

-I think it's hard for people who aren't a bit older to remember a time when, on an American menu, you didn't say, um, um, Michigan morel or Oregon mussels, or anything like that.

If you wanted an extra buck or two on the entree, you said 'imported.'

-So you want to -- You're gonna go in?

-Yeah, I'm gonna bring them in and then we'll fix them all up.

-Okay.

-I think to the extent you can make people realize they're not just eating lettuce or cherries, they begin to think in terms of biodiversity.

I mean, it's an abstract word for what we're describing, but, you know, there's a direct relation between biodiversity on a plate.

A lot of different things, specific varieties -- maybe unusual varieties, ones that are not in commerce -- they're being biodiversity on the farm and in nature.

And always, you're reminded, I think, of a process.

-You know, too, but this was very -- I just bought that.

They have no -- -I'll take either one.

-Okay.

-But I think if they have the same ones as yesterday, we'll take it. -Uh-huh.

-What Alice has done is elevated the farmer from this faceless entity that just produces these commodities to someone that has a face.

Alice has given farmers a face by teaching the public the story about food and understanding that we celebrate food, not just from the chef's art, but also from the farmer's art.

[ Guitar plays tranquil tune ] -Peaches are our favorite dessert at the restaurant.

We often make a galette, which is a kind of tart.

♪♪ The key to making the dough is not to blend it too much.

Those little piece of butter make it so flaky.

You can't duplicate the taste of a perfect peach.

When they're ripe, the less you do with them, the better.

We put a little butter and almond paste on the crust, and then the peaches.

♪♪ I love a galette because it looks so handmade and that's perfect to me.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Peaches are really only good during the hottest months of the summer.

So we serve them from the end of July until the end of September.

For me, there's nothing like a perfect peach.

♪♪ I think there's something really special and important about knowing that you can only have a peach for a very brief moment each year.

[ Outro plays ] [ Silverware clanks ] ♪♪ -Oh!

-Well, as a small farmer, I just feel like she's -- she's our patron saint.

She's one of the few people out there who's really popularized, you know, fresh, locally grown food and brought out the importance of it and made it really understandable to a lot of people. Um -- And, you know, going to her restaurant, I think is, for me, like going to church.

It's, you know, it's the high temple of locally grown, fresh, really well-done food.

-Well. Look at this color.

Amazing.

And some mint.

-One of the great insights of the organic movement was that the consumer is a creator, not just a consumer.

That we make the world with our buying decisions.

So that if we choose to buy organic and pay that price premium, we are supporting a whole chain of events that unfolds from that.

That decision to buy that organic lettuce instead of that conventional lettuce, that ramifies all the way back to the farm and it supports a certain kind of agriculture, and that supports a certain kind of environment.

-Much of our policy is food-based.

Much of why we do what we do is because of food.

So it's not just cultural, it's -- it's political.

And that is part of Alice's message, is that we need to think about that.

You know, food subsidies, petroleum subsidies.

Much of why we go to war can be seen as, you know, based on food.

And has been, throughout human history.

[ Guitar plays ] -Aren't they beautiful on the...vine?

They just, I think, express something about this season, this moment in time.

And they come in all these beautiful colors.

When they're really good, they're irresistible.

I'm always looking for ones in the market that have that -- that little top on, that you just know that that's been picked that morning, when it's like that.

♪♪ ♪♪ -So we got two tomatoes here, okay?

This is the commercial variety that is available at any number of agro-business outlets near you.

This is a organic tomato grown with love and compost.

If I am casting a Chekhov play or a Greek tragedy, or Shakespeare, I can hire Sylvester Stallone, to give me a really pumped-up experience, uh, that's loud and that's strong.

But I can guarantee you you will not be moved.

His gift is to be present while things are blown up around him.

If I'm hiring an actor and, when you first look at them, you don't -- you're not impressed, but, two hours into the piece, you find yourself unexpectedly overwhelmed and moved and... crying, without even noticing it, because what that person's carrying with them is so real.

♪♪ [ Birds tweeting ] -As agriculture is changing, you're getting a greater division between big and small, capital-/technologically intensive, versus labor- and management-intensive.

Conventional versus organic.

It's creating a two-tier system.

One system is based on industry, business, economics.

The other system, which I like to think I'm in, is based at meaning, story, the art of what we're doing.

[ Birds continue tweeting ] ♪♪ This fruit is just perfect, where it has this amber glow to it.

And you could see much more vividly the signature of the leaf.

'Cause here you see a blush coming in and, if you lift the leaves gently, you could see where the leaves have left their mark on this.

[ Accordion plays ] -Last year when we ranked the 50 best restaurants in the United States, it was unanimous here at that Chez Panisse was the best restaurant.

♪♪ -What's made Chez Panisse kind of a pace-setting restaurant is not simply how good the food is, but what the food is.

-Until Alice came on the scene, fine dining in America was basically these snooty French chefs in their tall, white hats.

-And, you know, with a power maitre d', what we call the wall -- unless you drop money on the wall, you can't get in or you can't get your tables.

-Now, I remember going to one of them.

It was the most pretentious place I'd ever been.

-Waiters who would look down their nose and, when you ordered, they would say, 'Oh, very good choice.'

And everybody in America was of going out to eat, of doing the wrong thing.

♪♪ ♪♪ -French cuisine was disserviced by those type of restaurant and the great chefs and this is what became, for most American, identified with real French cuisine when, in fact, the cuisine that Alice Waters does is much more French.

-What I see in Alice, that puts her pretty separate from most anyone I know that cooks, and that is that she -- she's very careful not to exceed in spicing things.

There's a delicate edge to all of her food.

-I think of her as someone who almost conceptualizes what ought to be cooked in a restaurant and eaten in a restaurant.

And the we way it ought to be and the tone of it.

-Alice's food is just what it is and she doesn't give it all kinds of bows and ribbons and stars.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Well, I don't think of myself as a chef.

I think, uh, I think of myself as really, um -- Uh, more like a home cook.

I'm a -- I think I'm a good taster and a good critic.

-The chef entail that you're in charge of a group of people, that you order them and you structure the cuisine, telling, 'I want this this way, I want that this way, I want the fish to be cooked this way.

I don't want to use those ever again.

I want to use that. I want that presentation, want it very simple or complicated, or whatever.'

This is what a chef is. That is this one.

in French, means 'chief.'

You know, in charge.

So she is a chef, whether she like it or not, when she run a restaurant.

-The truth is that, once she'd opened the restaurant, almost from the beginning, Alice wasn't the only cook.

If all she was gonna do was indulge herself by being in the kitchen all the time, the restaurant wasn't gonna survive.

She had created a community and it was her obligation to keep it going.

-People think that I cook at the restaurant every night, but I really haven't cooked at the restaurant for... 19 years, since my daughter was born.

So it's an illusion that I am in the kitchen.

There are a lot of extraordinary cooks who collaborate in that kitchen.

-Essentially what Alice does is she facilitates other people's talent.

She is sort of the maestro pulling the strings.

-I really believe that people like to be asked to do something, you know, that they couldn't do on their own.

It's like an improvisation.

That you come together and you talk about the menu and you look at the ingredients and you see who has the ability to -- desire, to cook whatever it is.

And if you have a lot of people engaged in that project who are sort of specialists, then it -- it becomes very exciting.

I mean, you just -- all the little piece that comes together like a production, you know, a play.

-You know, every once in a while, you know, in theater, I have a moment of perfection, you know, that's somewhere in the middle of the third act, you know, for that second performance that we achieved two years ago.

Alice is serving hundreds of meals every day, and they're all at that level.

-I'm gonna do it in two courses.

Where I thought we would do it is the broth with crouton in it, and then the fish with a little bit of broth and the rouille.

-Well, that's served in the broth in the first -- in the second course? -Yeah.

-I'm always there as the critic and giving them feedback.

I think I can really help in that way.

I can help get them to even another place.

Is it raspberry jam?

-Raspberry coulis.

It has a little bit of the Muscat Grappa in it.

First one had a nougat mousse.

[ Silverware clanks ] It's just right. I think this piece is a little bit soft, 'cause it's been sitting.

-Where the last minute is when you're tasting a dish.

That's the time when you can really fine-tune it, and it's so important.

I think it's probably the most important part of the -- the creation of the dish, is that -- that -- just that little bit of -- of salt or a little bit of lemon juice or the moving of things on a plate.

It's -- It's sweet.

[Clanking] -And it is kind of nougat.

-After all. -That's right.

-How about add a little bit of our infamous... -Peel.

-Peel would do on it.

I hate to say it but -- -I feel that there's so much in it, though. -But just -- It might -- -You still -- -It might go a nice way -- I think, when we talk about the food, when we really analyze it as a group, you can get to a place that's greater than the sum of the parts.

I think that peel makes every dessert better.

See, I like it.

-I like the fresh-- -I really like that.

It makes all the difference for me.

-Alice has very clear taste.

I could look at any dish that Alice had made and know that it was Alice.

And you know it, you see it, you can taste it.

All good cooks have an identifiable style.

I mean, Alice's is very strong. If she fries an egg for you, it's not like anybody else's egg.

I mean, I watched her. I stayed with her once and she got up in the morning and fried me an egg, and it was a completely different egg than I've ever had in the past.

I was sort of shocked 'cause it was so completely different than how I would fry an egg.

It was great, but it was 'Oh, my God. It's an Alice egg.'

-I'm making a torpedo red-onion vinaigrette for the salad.

I'm going to make a bed of lettuces with sliced tomatoes on top.

And then the sauce will be made with a dice of red onions, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

-I think of lettuce as really sort of the beginning of Alice's revolution.

When I first knew her, lettuce was the thing.

She personally always washed all the lettuce at Chez Panisse.

And it was the first thing she did, was start finding people all around Berkeley to start growing her little lettuces.

When Alice was first serving mesclun salad, nobody knew what it was and now it's every supermarket has a mesclun mix.

I can just see her picking through lettuces.

It's the sort of [indistinct] Alice dish, is salad.

[ Guitar plays tranquil tune ] -Well, one of my mentors is Lulu Peyraud, who owns Domaine Tempier winery and Bandol in France, and Lulu is a great cook. Just a great cook.

She's a natural cook.

She just knows what to put in and -- and it's very simple kind of cooking, but it's with an aesthetic that she has.

It appears that she never makes an effort.

She's just -- it just happens.

Lulu makes the quintessential bouillabaisse.

Something about that big pot over the vine branches.

You know, out there in the hot sun, cooking that fish stew.

Intoxicating.

Well, a bouillabaisse is really a fisherman's stew.

It's the fish that came out of the Mediterranean, the rockfish that came out of the Mediterranean, cooked with...garlic and onions and fennel, tomatoes.

A little bit of saffron, olive oil.

And brought to a boil.

And so the flavors come together.

It's something that we've been cooking at the restaurant in the fireplace, and we cook it for our special occasions, for birthdays and... And, uh, when the shellfish is really good.

♪♪ [ Sizzling ] [ Sizzling ] Oh, it smells fantastic.

-Good? Yeah, I know. -Doesn't it?

-[Continues indistinctly] -I was joking with Jerome about throwing a piece of charcoal into our bouillabaisse if it wasn't smoky enough, 'cause I love that taste.

I love that -- that -- the fire in the pot.

Sometimes, you know, at Domaine Tempier, they throw a little piece of charcoal in it.

-Well, shall we try it?

-I don't know. They do that. -[Laughs] -They do. -We'll try the broth.

If it's not smoky enough, do it.

-Okay, we just throw one in.

♪♪ -[Conversing indistinctly] -What do you think?

-That's tasty.

-I think so.

♪♪ -Wouldn't change a thing.

-Unh-unh. I think it's pretty fabulous.

-Her deepest feeling, I think, is that if she could just find the right dish to feed every person on Earth, if she could get the right flavor in your mouth, you would suddenly understand that, if we could make food better and better-grown and more sustainable, we would all care more each other and the world would be a better place.

-Cooking is giving, you know?

And it's the pure -- maybe the purest expression of love.

I mean, in the sense that you always cook for the other.

-Try it before, but it must have a beautiful flavor, especially mashed lemon.

-Well, cooking and feeding people is a form of communication for me.

It's the way I -- the way I talk.

Just give 'em a little something to eat.

[ Birds tweet ] This is my favorite thing to do, is to come to somebody else's garden to pick vegetables.

This is the way people have been cooking since the beginning of time.

They've been picking what's locally available; they've been cooking it simply, eating it with their family and friends.

It bring you completely into the whole experience of food that is irresistible.

I get ideas and I think, 'Well, maybe we'll make a soup with these green beans,' or, 'Maybe we'll have the salad.'

My whole plan begins to take shape.

[ Thudding ] A-At Chez Panisse, it used to be a test for the new cooks at the restaurant.

Um, they had to pound the pesto by hand for 100 people.

And if they could stay focused and if they could pound it, then they had a job.

They had a tryout for a job.

A pesto is a mixture of garlic and basil and it's put into a soup, a vegetable soup.

There is a recipe for a pesto.

There are many, many, many recipes for pesto.

They all seem to have pine nuts and basil and garlic and Parmesan in them.

But all of these are vari-variables.

Sometimes the basil is very spicy.

When it gets hot in the summer, the basil grows very quickly and it's got a real strong flavor and so you use less of it.

Sometimes, you cut it with a little parsley.

This is one vegetable soup.

It's cooked with a stock and you cook it for 2 hours.

So all the vegetables sort of melt together.

I wanted to do something with what was in the garden and I wanted to cook something that was very simple, very aromatic, and easy to serve to a big group of people.

Having an experience around the table engages our senses, opens them up.

We're brought into the experience of communicating with each other around the table in this delicious way.

A little bit of that on the top of each bowl, okay?

And I'm gonna pass it, and you pass it around.

-Beautiful. How far around should we go? -All the way around.

-We're born uncivilized and we remain that way, if we don't have an atmosphere that repetitively tells us that we need to interact, we need to recognize that the other person feels just as we do.

The table is the ideal metaphor for this experience.

It is everything -- sharing food regularly all the time with others that you share your life with.

-I think that, to sit down with friends, have a good meal, a glass or two of wine, and talk is one of the great human experiences. -Tiny, white navy bean.

I mean, that's the only kind of bean we could get.

-And so when you get a product that actually comes from a friend, you know, and you get the bean and then you grow it, you just feel so responsible for something great coming into this world.

-Like we're starting to learn from -- -It's the story of Chez Panisse.

I mean, in 30 years, uh, things have changed entirely.

At the beginning, we couldn't find anything.

And then we started to ask for it and look for it and -- -She's really taken off in a different direction than when I was little.

She's much more involved socially and with education and in a way that she wasn't when -- when she was just working at the restaurant.

I always used to consider her 'crusade' to be her avocation.

You know, that she was still the restaurateur and she was still, you know, owner of Chez Panisse, and that was her title, and then that she had this avocation that she was also dedicated to.

And I just -- I always used to tell people that she loved being at Chez Panisse and doing that, but she was about being at the Edible Schoolyard.

[ Guitar plays ] [ Birds tweet ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -There was a lot of land the school had that was basically just turned over and she thought, 'We should have a garden there.

And these kids could be growing food and learning how to cook it.'

So she contacted the principal, who was then Mr. Smith, and told him her idea.

And so this is Alice and, thanks to Alice, that's why we have our garden and our kitchen now.

So Alice is here today.

[Applause] -Thank you, Alice.

-Thank guys.

I think, if you're talking about a person who is a world-famous chef, someone who's this influential in the food world, to really take so much of her energy and divert it into a program like this is pretty odd.

But, when you get to know Alice, at this point, I don't even really think of her in that capacity.

To me, she is a really hard-working -- incredibly hard-working -- visionary.

Somebody who has these quite brave ideas and just doesn't give up.

-Well, I just wanted to see what the kids were eating here at camp.

I wanted to see what they had for lunch, what was left over.

I always did that at the restaurant.

It's just a little bit difficult to see what's down on the bottom unless you get in.

[ Laughs ] Well.

Little Kit Kats.

Seeing how badly kids eat today made me realize that we had to do something about it.

This is really where the idea for the Edible Schoolyard began.

Doritos, McDonald's.

It's not shocking to me anymore to find Coke cans and candy-bar wrappers after breakfast.

It's just what's happening in the -- at school.

Kids either don't eat or they eat junk food.

-Alice has good reason to be worried about what kids in America are eating today.

Uh, there is an extraordinary obesity epidemic among American children and, right now, about 25% of American children are overweight or obese.

So what kids are eating is of incredible importance to their health and to our future healthcare costs.

-We already take responsibility for their bodies at school.

We teach them physical education.

We teach them sex education.

Why we teaching them nutritional education?

Because we didn't think they needed it.

But now we know, we're learning, that they do.

And, um, and Alice was there, you know, early.

I mean, you know, she's ready with this curriculum.

-These little gem lettuces are lovely, but they also kind of collect some of the dirt.

When they get watered, sometimes the dirt sort of splashes down in and it all settles to the bottom.

And somebody who's kind of in a hurry might just sort of run it under the water and then say, 'Okay, I cleaned it.'

But somebody who is meticulous is going to kind of peel it, leaf by leaf.

Do you guys ever do that where you have a daisy, and you do that 'He loves me; he loves me not,' one at a time like that?

-[Scoff] -It's kind of like that, okay?

I just see what's happened at the Edible Schoolyard and they -- they come to that table and they behave differently.

They're quiet when people are talking, they -- they're open in a way that I -- that some of them never are.

Uh, they like to do things that, uh, we would consider to be hard work.

[ Clanging ] -We need rocks. We need, I don't know, 15 wheelbarrows of rocks?

-Where am I taking them? -You need more?

-I'll take 'em. -In this garden, what we really aim to do is to make it a place that is theirs so they are part of the decision-making process, so that they are a part of what is happening, a part of the whole collective project.

And, as you look around, it's not a garden that fits any sort of standard garden design formats, but it's a garden with tremendous energy and it comes from the fact that, you know, 900 kids a year are working out here.

[ Squeaking ] [ Rattling ] -We work in a school district that is so diverse, that we have so many different backgrounds: 22 different languages spoken, socioeconomic range from A to Z, and we get kids who very privileged, kids who are very underprivileged, and I think that teaching them that your senses are really the great equalizer, in terms of the key to a beautiful life, a really fulfilling life, are really in your senses, and that's available to anybody.

[ Guitar plays tranquil tune ] -All right, we're finding potatoes.

-I feel lucky. -[Laughs] I've been digging here for about -- oh, wait, nevermind.

-You're like 'Oh, wait, nevermind.'

-The value of the Edible Schoolyard Project is making kids aware of where food comes from.

In our suburban and urban society, most children, and even most adults, are completely disconnected from agricultural production, have no idea where their food comes from, how it's being made.

-It's a task that has a very clear course: the beginning, middle, end.

A very fulfilling end, especially for kids who are hungry.

And I mean physically hungry, too, not just emotionally and intellectually hungry, but physically hungry.

For them to come in and understand that it's not hard [Cheering and applause] to make something wonderful and that feeling of sharing it with other people is -- it's almost like you can see the light coming on in their head, because just that simple exchange when you're working with somebody across the table and they're picking the leaves off the parsley and giving them to you and you're chopping them up and you have this relationship that you don't have in the hallway in school, you don't have it when you're working on your computer, when you're playing your videogame.

But when you are working on the same thing, and then you know that you're gonna be sitting and eating together, all of the sudden, you look at that person in a different way and you think, 'I'm your friend.

I like you.'

-Alice has devoted her life to these issues and most people never stop to think about them.

And so the awareness that she has and the lack of awareness that most people have about their food and its consequences isn't always easy to deal with.

-Now, to talk about dinner, too, -[Laughter] -is Alice Waters, who is the owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California.

She sort of is the one who set a standard for a kind of cuisine that came from California and just became what everybody wanted and she has been the person who connected the dots, making us understand that where food comes from has a lot to do with how it finally presents.

-For me, that's really the big question, is 'Where does our food come from and what are the consequences of the decisions that we make about what we eat every day?'

I really want to cook with what's alive and right for the moment and I really feel like I-I-I'm just so dependent on that farmers' market and on -- on these farmers.

-What she's asking us to do is cook again.

I think what we have to think is 'How can we do that?'

I mean, maybe it doesn't happen in the old way.

I mean, she doesn't have the entire answer.

I mean, maybe what we have to do is say, 'Yes, you're right, we have to learn to cook; we have to teach children about food, we have to go back to the earth and think about new ways to apply this.'

-I'm really interested in the school art [ continues indistinctly ] -We're going to. That's our plan, is to do it in the whole school. -Of projects -- I was thinking of doing my field work down there.

-I think she's absolutely committed.

I mean, I've never seen someone quite that committed, who acts so quickly on new information and what -- what she thinks is right.

And, you know, her menu is this -- is this tool, you know, and, on the one side, it's looking toward the consumer and keeping them interested and stimulated and delighted, and, on the other side, it's looking toward American agriculture and setting an example because her decisions, whether she's gonna have grassfed beef on her menu or not, ramifies.

I mean, it's -- that -- her menu is very influential.

-The onions on a long strip.

-I think on a lot of fronts, certainly including chefs whom she's trained, who are all over this country now, she's had an impact on eating habits in the United States, which is decisive.

♪♪ -I'm hoping that we can come to a time where -- where everything that we have on the table is something that's wholesome and pure and delicious.

♪♪ -Oh, I think she's made a huge dent in her dreams.

She doesn't think about obstacles.

What she does is go to the conclusion and then she'll work it out from there.

-She wants you to trust yourself.

She wants you to know that the good thing is out there and, if you've had it once, you can have it again and that it's worth searching for.

-This isn't hard.

This is not a hard job, to be part of this revolution.

And it's a revolution because [Kindling crackles] it is a different way of thinking about the world.

You're -- You're caring about the future; you're caring about the world for our kids and you're trying to take care of it and you're supporting the people who are taking care of the land and there's a whole set of values that are part of that thinking.

This isn't hard.

It's a delicious thing to do.

And revolutionary.

-Every year, we celebrate the birthday of the restaurant.

For the 30th, we had a very big celebration with 600 people coming together at the University of California.

It felt like the most appropriate place because this is where it all began for me.

It was really a perfect day.

♪♪ -Well, there we are on a beautiful, sunlit day, under an arbor of trees.

Long, trestled -- very long, trestled tables.

[ Piano plays ] -[operatic] ♪ Chez Parnisse -A -♪ Chez Parnisse -musical -♪ Chez Parnisse -interlude by Michael Tilson Thomas, the music director of the San Francisco Symphony.

A -- an o-- kind of mock ode to Alice -- -♪ We refine obscure old coot ♪ Into ecstatic soup ♪ We won't serve a toothpick ♪ If it's not orga-a-nic [Laughter] ♪ Chez Panisse -'Alice Waters and Her D ♪ To redeem each virgin ta-a-ste bud ♪ -A mosaic.

A rainbow of types of people.

It was really the foodie reunion of the decade.

Writers, cooks, and lots of friends of Alice -- her parents.

That was one of the great treats for me, was meeting her parents.

-♪ And if you please ♪ Will never cease!

♪ Chez Panisse ♪ Chez Pani... ♪ ...sse ♪♪