Alice Waters

First woman to win the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef

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"Alice Waters is an American chef, restaurateur, activist and author. She is the owner of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley, California restaurant famous for its organic, locally grown ingredients and for pioneering California cuisine which she opened in 1971.


In addition to her restaurant, Waters has written several books on food and cooking, including Chez Panisse Cooking (with Paul Bertolli), The Art of Simple Food I and II, and 40 Years of Chez Panisse.


She founded the Chez Panisse Foundation in 1996, and created the Edible Schoolyard program at the Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California. Waters serves as a public policy advocate on the national level for school lunch reform and universal access to healthy, organic foods, and the impact of her work in organic food and nutrition is typified by Michelle Obama's White House organic vegetable garden…


She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley after transferring there from UC Santa Barbara. She received a degree in French Cultural Studies in 1967. During her time at UC Berkeley, she studied abroad in France, where she shopped for local produce and prepared fresh foods simply in order to enhance the experience of the table…


During her time at UC Berkeley, Waters became active in the Free Speech Movement, which was sweeping across the campus…


In 1971, Waters opened Chez Panisse, which she named for a favorite character in a trilogy of Marcel Pagnol films. From the beginning, the restaurant was a collaborative effort, one notable collaboration was with Jeremiah Tower. Tower took the organic ingredients and melded them into a more refined menu. Chez Panisse was intended to serve primarily as a place where Alice could entertain her friends. Realizing the difficulty in sourcing fresh, high-quality ingredients, Waters began building a network of local farmers, artisans, and producers, and continues to source the restaurant's ingredients through her local network. Waters opened the upstairs Chez Panisse Café, a concept championed by Tower, in 1980. Café serves an a la carte menu for lunch and dinner. In 1984, Waters opened Café Fanny, named after her daughter, a few blocks from the restaurant. Café Fanny, which served breakfast and lunch in a casual, European-café setting, closed in 2012. The Waters mainly focused on the importance of organic farmers. Through Chez Panisse foundation the project which was called "Edible Schoolyard" was organized in order to make an environment for the students to grow their own products… Central to the operations and philosophy of Chez Panisse is Waters' and the restaurant's dedication to using organic ingredients. Waters has become a crusader for organic foods, believing that they are both better for the environment and for people's health in addition to tasting superior to commercially-grown, non-organic foods…


Now in its 47th year, Chez Panisse has become one of the most awarded and renowned restaurants in the world. It was recognized as the Best Restaurant in America by Gourmet Magazine in 2001, and Waters was named Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation in 1992. She was the first woman to win this award.


In addition, Waters won the lifetime achievement award given by the S. Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants association. She was the third recipient of the annual award, and is the only female winner in the award’s history. About Waters, the 50 Best Restaurants writes: “Described variously as a visionary, a pioneer, ‘the mother of American cooking’ and ‘the most important figure in the culinary history of North America’, Alice Waters is certainly one of the most influential figures in American cooking of the last 50 years.” [Waters' book] Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook was named as one of the 50 best cookbooks of all time by The Observer. Her book ranked number 1 on the list, which also included books by Deborah Madison, a Chez Panisse alum, and David Tanis, one of the restaurant's current head chefs. Alice Water's latest cookbook, entitled My Pantry, focuses on which basic dishes you should cook instead of buy.


Waters has also recently been named one of TIME Magazine's Top 100 (2014), is a recipient of the Wall Street Journal Innovators' Award (2014), is a new member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2014), was mentioned in the 2010 International Raw Food Restaurant Directory, published by Ki Publishing. Former Chez Panisse staff include Mark Peel, of Campanile, in Los Angeles; Dan Barber, of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Blue Hill Restaurant, in New York; Judy Rodgers, of Zuni Café, in San Francisco; Gayle Pirie, of Foreign Cinema, in San Francisco; and Suzanne Goin, of Lucques, in Los Angeles. The restaurant currently operates with a staff of over 100 people, including chefs, pastry chefs, and interns…


Waters' effort to promote fresh, sustainable food grown by local farms has extended into her work as a food activist and humanitarian. Waters has always been an outspoken supporter of the restaurant's approach to food, cooking, and supporting the local community, but has more recently formalized her efforts through the Chez Panisse Foundation.


In celebration of the restaurant's 25th anniversary, Waters founded the Chez Panisse Foundation in 1996, whose mission is to transform public education by using food to teach, nurture, and empower young people. In particular, the Foundation has worked with the Berkeley Unified School District to develop a public school curriculum that is integrated with the school dining services and incorporates growing, cooking, and sharing food at the table into the school day in order to build a humane and sustainable future for the school's students.


The Chez Panisse Foundation is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) organization…


Currently, Waters is working at the national policy level to extend free school meals to all public school children in the United States. She hopes to expand programs like the Edible Schoolyard and the School Lunch Initiative in order to reach schools across the US. She supports the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, and believes that providing all public school students with free food in school would build the foundation for a healthier and more sustainable food culture in the US.


In 2003, Waters helped create the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which aims to make sustainable food an important part of university-level education. The project maintains an on-campus organic farm and integrates organic, local products into the university’s dining program…


Since 2002, Waters has served as a Vice President of Slow Food International, an organization dedicated to preserving local food traditions, protecting biodiversity, promoting small-scale quality products around the world…


Gourmet magazine awarded Chez Panisse restaurant as the Best Restaurant in America in 2001. In addition, Waters has won other honors.

  • National Audubon Society's 2004 Rachel Carson Award Honoree

  • Listed as one of the ten best chefs in the world in 1986 by Cuisine et Vins de France .

  • Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation in 1992

  • James Beard Humanitarian Award in 1997

  • Bon Appetit magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000

  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in April 2007

  • Given Global Environmental Citizen Award by Harvard Medical School February 2008 together with Kofi Annan

  • California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced on May 28, 2008 that Waters would be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. She was among 12 inductees in 2008.

  • In 2009, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humanities by Princeton University.

  • Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council

  • French Legion of Honor in 2009

  • In 2014, she was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

  • Waters received a 2014 National Humanities Medal for her work as a champion of a holistic approach to eating and health.

  • In 2015, she was awarded an honorary degree by American University of Rome.

  • In 2017, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame." (1)

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