Alice Waters & Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution

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Penguin Press, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 380 pages
174 Reviews
In an authorized biography-the story of Alice Waters, Chez Panisse, and the San Francisco 1970s counterculture food revolution that invented "American cuisine"

Not so long ago it was nearly impossible to find a cappuccino or a croissant in this country, and goat cheese and mesclun lettuce were virtually unheard of. Most people had no idea what "organic" food was, and even fewer thought about "sustainable farming." But in 1971, in a corner of Berkeley, California, a young Francophile named Alice Waters opened a small counterculture restaurant for her friends called Chez Panisse and launched an entirely new way of thinking about and serving food in America. Without an ounce of business sense or financial discipline, Alice relied on the coterie of devoted friends and followers who developed around her and on her strong principles of, among other things, using only locally grown and organic ingredients at the peak of their seasons, to keep her restaurant afloat. It was a reckless, extravagant, inexperienced venture that would have failed at any other time and place, but that instead-somehow-turned into a food revolution.

Today, Alice Waters may be the most important figure in the culinary history of North America. Chez Panisse revolutionized what it means to eat out and gave birth to a new nationwide cuisine-the first in this country not associated with a single region or ethnic group, the first "American" cuisine. Gourmet's 2002appraisal ranked Chez Panisse as the best restaurant in America, and The New York Timeshas called Alice "the mother of American cooking." Alice has become a public figure, revered and idolized by many. The first "foodie," she has become a famous chef, activist, advocate, and spokeswoman whose personal beliefs have become the values of an entire food movement. But her complex personal character is hardly known at all.

Thomas McNamee was selected by Alice to document her story and was given exclusive access to her and her closest friends, to the Chez Panisse archives, and to private collections and memorabilia. As the story unfolds over the decades, we learn of her many passionate loves, her marriage, her divorce, the birth of her daughter Fanny, her failures, her critics. We come to know the extraordinary cast of characters who have formed the ever-shifting Chez Panisse community-a make-shift family with complex relationships, competing interests, and a strange, almost cultish, devotion to each other and to their work.

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Beautifully researched. - Goodreads
The writing was limp and cast too wide a net. - Goodreads
Loved the little recipes, though! - Goodreads
I love how the recipes were shared. - Goodreads

Review: Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution

User Review  - Lucy Diamante - Goodreads

A personal, very thoroughly written biography that weaves together the story of creator and creation very well. Read full review

Review: Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution

User Review  - Cara - Goodreads

Sadly, I lived in Northern California for almost ten years and never made it to Chez Panisse. I had no idea how much we all owe to Alice Waters when it comes to thinking about where our food is grown ... Read full review

About the author (2007)

Thomas McNamee was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1947, and grew up there and in New York City. He graduated from Yale University in 1969. He is the author of The Grizzly Bear, Nature First, A Story of Deep Delights, and The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone. He wrote the documentary film Alexander Calder, which was broadcast on the PBS American Masters series in 1998 and received both a George W. Peabody Award and an Emmy. His essays, poems, journalism, criticism, and natural history writing have been widely published, and he is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review.

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