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Alice Waters is a renowned chef who is credited with pioneering the California Cuisine movement in cookery, establishing one of the best California restaurants in Berkeley, Chez Panisse, and supporting the move toward using organically grown foods in her recipes. Born in 1944, Alice Waters pursued her love of French culture, earning a French Cultural Studies degree at University of California, Berkeley in 1967. She then spent a year traveling through France, and in particular in utilizing not only French cooking techniques but the way in which the French approach food.
In 1971, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, which featured a pre fixe menu. Her focus was on providing guests with beautifully prepared food that would change with the seasons as new foods were freshly available. The restaurant became an almost immediate success, inspiring Alice Waters to open a companion Chez Panisse café in 1980. In 1984 Waters opened a breakfast and lunch restaurant, Café Fanny.
Though California Cuisine might later be mocked for serving tiny portions at unbelievably high prices, the restaurants opened by Alice Waters did not spearhead this movement. Instead focus was on how to embrace the abundance of California meat and produce and avidly support sustainable farming methods. Though Chez Panisse is an expensive place to dine, the café situated above it features a variety of pizzas, salads, and desserts of moderate expense, and the servings are delightfully large, often needing to be shared.
Since she couldn’t reach everyone through her restaurants, and by popular request, Alice Waters also became a noted cookbook author, and has produced eight cookbooks. Some cookbooks feature recipes from Chez Panisse and its café, while others focus on enticing children into the world of food. Fanny at Chez Panisse contains both a story and cooking recipes for children, and was inspired by Waters’ daughter, Fanny, born in 1983.
Her love of introducing children to food has led Alice Waters to a very interesting career path as designer of the Edible Schoolyard Program in Berkeley. The program teaches children how to raise, grow and prepare their own foods using fresh ingredients. Waters’ concern about childhood obesity and also the deterioration of family dining inspired her to think of ways in which the idea of dining, and eating well could be incorporated into the school environment. Her pilot program has now extended to many of Berkeley’s elementary and middle schools.
Alice Waters is recognized for her humanitarian efforts, her pioneering ideas in the food world, and for her continued support of farmers and the organic farming movement. She brings her philosophical ideas literally to the table in her fine restaurants, cookbooks, and her programs for children.