As many of you know last weekend was the 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA. It is consistently ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Of course Chez Panisse was and is more than a restaurant. It’s a place where a true pioneer Alice Waters, discovered and shared with Berkeley, California, and America about how simple slow cooking made with fresh ingredients grown locally, right out of the garden, benefits everyone and tastes best. It seems so easy and obvious now, but not then. Of course during the last 40 years Chez Panisse has been a spring board for not only a healthy eating philosophy but a spring board for hundreds of chefs and new restaurants.
Then of course there’s the Edible Schoolyard Project. Where Ms. Waters planted a garden in Martin Luther King Middle School and turned it into a classroom (and now dining hall) for kids to learn about food, growing, cooking and community. It has become a national and international model and curriculum for schools all over the world.
I can’t say enough about what she’s done and continues to do. Neither can the National Gallery as her portrait (see above) will go there after being on display in Berkeley. I got to see the portrait and experience what she’s built with the Edible Schoolyard Project last Saturday with my family as we attended the OpenEducation event where the Berkeley Art Museum was transformed into an open classroom and living kitchen. There was a variety of “school” projects to highlight to the public what goes on in garden classrooms around the country thanks to Ms. Waters programs. My family enjoyed fudge made from goat’s milk and saw the responsible goats. My kids made a jar of pickles and tortillas. We brought home seed bombs and lettuces. We saw grain being ground by a bicycle. And saw 5,000 honey bees in action. It was a wonderful day to celebrate food, community and the power of teaching. I was, and am, quite inspired. Thank you Ms. Waters and Happy Birthday Chez Panisse!