Want to know what to eat and why? Go ask Alice … Waters, of course.
In Alice Waters’ utopia, not only do farmers markets make grocery-store produce aisles obsolete, the deer and the antelope roam freely with the cows and the chickens. Fish farms are figments of our imagination, and kids pick their own vegetables from the backyard.
Waters, the sixty-three-year-old proprietor of Chez Panisse  in Berkeley—widely considered to be the birthplace of California cuisine—has led the charge for a wholesome approach to eating that includes local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, as well as instilling the importance of family and community. “It’s a prescription for health,” says the New Jersey native, who is also the founder of the Edible Schoolyard Program and an organizer of Slow Food Nation, a four-day “celebration of American food” taking place at Fort Mason in May 2008. Her biography, Alice Waters and Chez Panisse (Penguin)—a candid kitchen confidential by Thomas McNamee—is in bookstores, as well as her eighth cookbook, The Art of Simple Food: Notes and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution.
7×7 Magazine dished with the doyenne of politically correct dining.
Q: Can you forgo your preference for organic food if you want to eat at your local taco stand or curry house?
A: I’m just particular about what curry house or taco stand I go to. Picante in Berkeley serves organic tortillas, and Breads of India uses organic flour. You pick and choose.
Q: So you’re not 100 percent organic.
A: How can you possibly be? When I cook at home, I try to cook all-organic, and we do it at the restaurant as much as we can.
Q: Choose one: local or organic.
A: Right now, I’m very involved with the local. It’s important to me who is growing my produce and what their sets of values are. It’s not so much that it has an organic label.
Q: Is the Edible Schoolyard a realistic option for inner-city schools?
A: It’s the only option. The Edible Schoolyard is not just a garden plot. I think in the inner city it would turn into a rooftop garden, or edible landscaping up the walls. There are many opportunities for schools that don’t have any land to plant. It’s not just simply fueling up—it’s more meaningful than that.
Q: Why did you authorize a biography?
A: I thought it would be about the development of Chez Panisse. I thought it might be of interest to people to know that you can start from nothing, but if you’re obsessed and uncompromising, you can be successful.
By Leilani Labong