The Mother of the Locavore Movement Serves Up Her Gastronomic Curriculum
Restaurateur Alice Waters expounds on the inspiration guiding The Edible Schoolyard in today’s short film by Lisa Eisner. Waters’ pioneering project at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California, has transformed a vacant lot into flourishing community farmland, combining horticulture, gastronomy and education. Visit any of the myriad farm-to-table restaurants defining the modern culinary scene, from Dan Barber's Blue Hill to Suzanne Goin's Lucques, and you'll trace the chefs' collective methodology back to Waters. The 67-year-old's Berkeley jewel, Chez Panisse, birthed the locavore movement in 1971 and celebrates its 40th anniversary this weekend with a three-day benefit festival for the Edible Schoolyard Project. "I truly believe in the power of delicious food as a way to have people think differently," says Waters, whose philosophy has found favor in luminaries including Bill Clinton, the Obamas and the Dalai Lama. NOWNESS talked to the cutting-edge cook about changing the diet of a nation.
What has The Edible Schoolyard taught you?
That when children are involved in the growing and preparing of food, they always want to eat it. I think this is the way to turn around this crisis in the nation's health. If children have the chance, they all fall in love with real food, and through the Edible Schoolyard project they learn lifelong lessons of nutrition. I am just hopeful we can bring this experience to every child.
Why has America forgotten the principle of whole foods?
Money. There are many who have made a whole lot of money marketing a fast-food nation to us; people who have been engaged in denigrating the work of cooks and farmers as a drudgery of another time. We have only become disconnected with how to feed ourselves in my lifetime, but I am very hopeful. I move around the United States and I see farmers’ markets popping up in the most unlikely places. I think we are going to go full circle.
Why has Chez Panisse resonated so profoundly with the public?
We always wanted a place that was simple and hospitable, a neighborhood restaurant. I have always wanted to be generous with the people who come to Chez Panisse. I want them to feel at home. Another thing that keeps us inspired, and never taking a thing for granted, is that our menu changes entirely everyday depending on what is perfect in the moment that it arrives from our family of 85 farmers, fisherman, foragers and ranchers. I think people know that they will taste what is best in that moment.
What essential items would we find in your pantry?
Good organic olive oil, grains, dried beans, summer pickles, apricot jam, whole wheat pasta.
What would be your last supper?
A little salad with radishes, Lulu's bouillabaisse, some ripe mulberries from farmer Hugh Byrne's tree, and a whole bottle of Bandol rosé!
To view a vegetable curry recipe from the Edible Schoolyard project visit our Facebook page here.