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The romantic impractical often eccentric ultimately brilliant making of a food revolution. with dw, 2007, 380pp...

Title : Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution
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ISBN : 9781594201158
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution Reviews

  • Sarah
    2019-06-15 05:02

    I am grateful to Anthony Bourdain for summing it up so neatly when he described Alice Waters as "Pol Pot in a muu muu." Despite its effusive title and starstruck gushing at the outset, this book quickly revealed to me that while I am very glad to have dined at Chez Panisse, I am gladder still that I didn't run into Alice Waters while there. The book is readable and gossipy but paints a very unflattering portrait of Waters -- her imperiousness, privilege, and naive assumptions that everything will turn out fine because it always has. I love Waters's slow food ideals and even the blind confidence that leads her to, say, write several bossy letters to the President of the United States about the need to feed school kids and families better. I love her restaurant and the lovely food and caring service I experienced there. I just hope I never cross her because, you know. She'd cut me.P.S. If you don't want to read the book (which is enjoyable), here is a timeline that hits the high points:

  • Molly
    2019-06-03 08:09

    I'm not a big biography reader. Not yet, anyway. But every once in awhile, I come across a biography that examines its subject with such intelligence and style that I emerge from that book profoundly satisfied. Add this bio to that list. I started it not even a week ago and looked forward to every return. I'm done now, and I'm bummed. Appropriately, it was delicious -- at times critical, at times glowing, and always well written -- an account of the life and times of a woman and her restaurant.Of course, I should come clean and say that I was already primed for the pump. I find Alice Waters to be a really compelling person -- and Chez Panisse to be a lovely, lovely place to eat (if costly). I applaud her love of French culture, good food, and fine living. And I admire and support her ability to frame eating within a political context. Long may she continue to write books, influence our elected leaders, spark the planting of organic gardens in our schools, promote the Slow Food movement and all it represents, and oversee each glorious, careful plate of food at her little restaurant on Shattuck Avenue.

  • Schmacko
    2019-05-26 05:01

    There is a moment late in the book Alice Waters and Chez Panisse where author Thomas McNamee describes a dining experience with such detailed romance, it ends up being a little hard to believe. Still, I wanted so desperately to believe it: the purple poetry, the food and the place McNamee paints for us. I wanted to be there, eating and enjoying in that restaurant that was born of hippie haphazard in the early 1970 – the place that now is one of the most famous restaurants in the world:As the food and the wine and the flowers and the staff did their work, there was more laughter, more talk. Strangers began chatting with one another. Old friends were changing seats. The newcomers, encouraged by the old-timers they had seen doing it, went in for a look at the kitchen and were welcomed.As the meal wound down, so did the cooks and the waiters. Everybody was loosing up. The barriers of custom that separated stranger from stranger, server from served, frequently soften at this point in the evening at Chez Panisse, and sometimes they even seem to disappear.Given the ambling, accidental history of Chez Panisse, it seems a miracle that it’s still around today. Alice Waters was not a professional chef; she was a Francophile American who dreamt up the whole scheme. She picked a house in Berkley, California, and she and her bohemian friends at first tried their hand at turning out French Provençal cuisine. At different times in this biography, Waters seems shy and thoughtful, sly and manipulative, perspicacious and exacting. And yet Chez Panisse was not profitable at all for its first decade, sex and drugs were quietly accepted as part of the scene, and staff would genially pilfer food and wine without a second thought or, many times, even a reprimand.Yet, Alice Waters and her restaurant were at the forefront of thoughts that today seem pervasive. Seemingly by accident, Waters and the several chefs she had working with her actually invented California Cuisine – light, healthy and simple foods that are marked by their seasonality and freshness (in mass-market terms, Seasons 52 adopts this same thought. Also an excellent Orlando version – and my favorite local restaurant - is the California atop Disney’s Contemporary hotel.) In California style, elaborate French preparation takes a backseat to keeping the food as simple and flavorful as possible. No longer are plates the product of days of overwrought preparation; they are the culmination of study, application and experimentation in minimal but artful arrangement of flavor and skill.There were other seminal ideas. Waters and her collaborators also adopted the idea of fostering local growers and suppliers instead of the ecologically damaging and flavor-robbing process of shipping food by truck across the nation. Also, the Slow Foods movement found one of its greatest allies in Waters. Finally, in the last decade, Waters helped start food programs at public schools and colleges across the nation and into Europe.That’s not to say McNamee’s book answers all the questions. Why and how Waters became so obsessed with food still seems a mystery at the end of the book – it’s a question that’s better to ponder, so McNamee smartly doesn’t provide an answer. Also, there are many stories in the book of human romances – most of them fiery and short-lived next to the legacy of Chez Panisse – and maybe that’s the way it should be for a place that has been so influential in changing the American culinary landscape. Finally, Waters seems to get a lot of credit next to the people who immeasurably helped her – people who Fate seemed to always provide to Waters at the exact time. Sometimes, it’s perfectly fine that Waters gets every bit of the credit – like when it comes to the pompous and fussy Jeremiah Towers who loves to proclaim himself the God of All Food, we root for Waters. However, the restaurant also had many amazing people involved, like the brilliant artist and writer Patricia Curtan. And the restaurant was also fostered by..oh maybe you’ve heard of them if you’re fixated on these things like I am…Jean-Pierre Moullé (who is still head chef today) and Paul Bertolli (now of frozen pasta fame).I admit I love books like this. I am a bit of an amateur foodie, true. But I also love books about how genius is developed or accidentally stumbled upon, especially when it’s this messy and wondrous. I alos love the simple black-and-white photos throughout the book. I love the Chez Panisse menus provided for special days – like anniversaries and their annual garlic festival. I love the conversational little recipes Alice Waters narrates; they’re peppered here and there – recipes that define the California style and give a warm, personal voice to Waters. Mostly, I love the idea of this place, an idea that McNamee sears into my imagination. Someday I hope to sit there, eat and enjoy this foodie utopia that McNamee describes.

  • Jessica
    2019-06-10 10:04

    This book was fine. Heavens knows I love cooking, restaurants, and food, but I felt like nobody in the book was very inspiring. Alice was a visionary but so much of the way she lived her life left me feeling like "why am I wasting my time reading 300 pages about her"? Also, the material and treatment of it just felt a little bit snobby. One of those books that you wish had been a five page article that you read in a magazine or something.

  • Irene
    2019-05-25 09:10

    What I learned:1. Baby pigeon is a squab.2. Truffles on anything makes it better.3. Slow food will prevent disease and obesity. Fast food be gone!4. Butter is alright to use. use it. Forget the "i can't believe its not butter" mentality.5. Life is not about the destination of the day, week, or year. The journey is what makes life liveable.6. Things will work themselves out whether you have a meltdown or not. So don't have one.7. It's better for you if it goes directly from the earth to the stove to the table to your mouth. 8. don't oversalt.9. eat the dessert and enjoy it, as long as its made fresh. You only live once.10. Its ok to spend money on spectacular meals in restaurants--as long as its not a chain that uses frozen, tasteless things that used to be food.As you can see, I learned a lot.

  • Mark Poons
    2019-06-05 06:09

    This book was a major let down. A book about the "most important restaurant in America" should have been much better. The material was clearly available; the author just did a terrible job with it. He explains very little about the business side of chez Panisse, it is always loosing money but the author never explains how it stays afloat financially. Alice is always on the brink of a breakdown at the end of several chapters. Then turn the page and she is motivated again? What changed? The author doesn’t tell us. I think a big part of the problem is Alice Waters is still alive and people did not want to say bad things about her. Plus the author is just bad!

  • Alison
    2019-06-02 09:45

    Very lighthearted yet extensive look into Alice Waters, Chez Panisse and the birth of "California cuisine." It's remarkable how much of what started there now informs so much of American dining. However, the book relies slightly too much to the "Alice did everything first, no one had ever thought of stuff like this before" trope. Not to take any credit from her, but it seems unlikely that NO ONE NO WHERE EVER thought of using lots of local products and fresh produce and seasonal ingredients. Anyway, good read, and Orinda gets a shout-out!

  • Naida
    2019-06-16 02:48

    A great book about one of the most influential women and restaurants in American cooking. Alice Waters and the rest of the employees, chefs and the farmers that supply Chez Panisse were part of a revolutionary movement in American food. Local, organic and simple these were their beliefs and this is how they cook. This book does a great job of outlining Alice's life and the development of Chez Panisse. If you're looking for recipes, this is not the book for you, but if you want to know more about how the restaurant developed and Alice' passions. Than I can think of no finer book.

  • Felicia Holtz
    2019-06-20 11:09

    This is an authorized biography but it is just as catty and chatty as an unauthorized version would have been. I am fascinated at the long, strange trip Alice Waters has been on. I am somewhat cynical that she singlehandedly brought about organic farming and local cuisine, but nonetheless, I am grateful for the battles she continues to fight on behalf of our nations food. This is a fun read that will also make you crave really good food.

  • Sarah Arlen
    2019-05-31 11:10

    What a gorgeous, mouthwatering book! I love cooking and I am a huge adherent of the organic/sustainable Slow Food Movement, so I am already the converted, but this book also explores the delicious pleasures of every turn in a great food leader's history. Hurray. I went right out and cooked a tasty meal afterwards.

  • Maureen
    2019-06-15 03:00

    I don't know what I was expecting from this book but it was an ok, kind of gossipy book. Not trashy enough for a 'beach read' but not that interesting otherwise. Maybe Alice Waters really is a flake who almost always falls upwards.

  • Carla
    2019-06-06 03:44

    It only took 100 pages to convince me that I have GOT to make a pilgrimage to Chez Panisse. Plans are already in the works...

  • Kathleen
    2019-06-16 05:57

    if you like food,France, dream of opening a restaurant, and support organic farmers -- you'll love it. but beware, it makes you hungry!

  • Marisa
    2019-06-02 08:55

    Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food RevolutionBy Thomas McNameeISBN 978-0143113089400 Pp.Reviewed by Marisa KallenbergerAlice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution is the first authorized biography of Chef Alice Waters. It serves as a chronological history of her personal growth as well as the evolution of her restaurant Chez Panisse, in Berkeley California, from its opening night in 1971 to its international impact thirty-five years later. The author, Thomas McNamee, is a resident of San Francisco, and is currently the director of the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. This book serves as a coming of age biography to inspire readers about how the quirky and all encompassing personal life story of a petite Berkeley woman, Alice Waters, made such a profound global impact. Alice changed America’s food and dining system, California Cuisine, and sustainability. “The Chez Panisse ideal was coming to fruition – French techniques, pepped up with jazzy improvisation, bright-flavored and utterly fresh California ingredients, purity of flavor, simplicity of presentation, seasonality: This was the birth of what came to be called California cuisine” (Pp. 90). McNamee details the problem in America at the time, how Alice decided to source her food, and the recognition she got for doing so. McNamee sets up the necessary background to fully understand the whole picture of Alice and Chez Panisse in context. Alice Waters often had to fight against her changing ecosystem. These roots stem from her involvement in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. Whether it was a war, the United States’ agricultural and fast food industries, or America’s perception of AIDs, Alice was very responsive to her environment.Alice’s free-spirit adds spontaneity to the mix that keeps readers guessing about what’s going to happen next. Since a young age, Alice’s “senses were almost painfully acute”, she lived in the moment for pleasure, and was very hands-on in experimentation. These painfully acute senses helped her work at the Montessori schools, teaching a curriculum that was based on learning through senses. This went beyond education to rule everything: the way she chose her men to the way she spontaneously ruled the kitchen. Sometimes, these two worlds collided. The restaurant was filled with love affairs and drugs. When she broke up with her long time boyfriend and manager of Chez Panisse he said, “she was always experimental, and I should have realized that that’s how she treated life, with an attitude of ‘I’ll try anything’”(Pp. 156).The importance of community is interwoven throughout the book. Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse to make people feel welcomed like family, and she instilled this sense of community in her staff and her close friends. They called the tight-knit original staff The Family Panisse. When the restaurant burned down from a fire, the entire Berkeley community rallied behind the restaurant and raised enough funds to bring it back to life. Alice’s own family even worked in the restaurant. Alice’s experiences accumulate and lead up to the last third of the book, which focuses on her global impact. “It was all of a piece: from her father’s garden to Montessori through the birth and growth and flowering of the Chez Panisse ethos, and ultimately to the philosophy and practice of sustainability-ecological, agricultural, and social” (Pp. 233). The turning point for Alice was the birth of her daughter Fanny, which was “an irrevocable investment in the future” (Pp. 185). Prior to Fanny, Alice only lived in the moment. She wanted Fanny to have a better life and found that even though she didn’t want to be famous, she could leverage her public visibility to make positive social changes for the future. Alice raised funds for the fight against AIDS, worked with President Bill and First Lady Hilary Clinton to change agricultural policy, revolutionized school lunches at elementary schools in California and an Ivey League in New Haven, represented Slow Food USA, and participated in many more endeavors.Through it all, Alice remains… Alice. She is so unique as an individual that Chez Panisse would not be the same without her. Her presence is still embodied in the restaurant, even though she is not there. Readers watch as Alice develops into a full character and the pieces all fit in the right, or sometimes wrong, places. Her complexities are shown through the highs and lows of the book, opening chapters on positive movement forward while some chapters end in uncertainty and Alice’s emotional insecurities. Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution is the lighthearted account of Alice Water’s growth, and the birth and impact of Chez Panisse. McNamee’s style, as well as Alice as a person, keeps the reader quickly turning pages to find out what spontaneous thing she does next. McNamee writes an all-encompassing story as Alice as a daughter, wife, girlfriend, mother, restaurateur, and public figure. He highlights her incredible features and traits, and isn’t afraid to also display her beautiful imperfections.McNamee opens up the book on Chez Panisse’s hectic opening night in 1971. This technique hooks the reader in immediately. Although the pace slows down slightly afterwards, the transformation into Alice as an icon keeps the reader engaged until present day. McNamee skillfully attempts the difficult task of consolidating such a complex human being’s life. McNamee uses an interesting technique to mix things up, keep the pace fluid, and allow the reader visualize Alice’s experience. He takes readers to Alice’s present by including menus from selected nights with the prices from that time included. The menu items and mouthwatering descriptions leave the reader hungry for more. The pages are also scattered with pictures of Alice through different time periods with important people in the book. The reader can really match a name to a face. In addition to the first-hand quotes, the characters are brought to life. Despite many positive attributes, the book is not without its weaknesses. If you’re interested in a critical analysis, pick up another book. McNamee is clearly in fascination with Alice Waters and doesn’t even try to hide it. McNamee residence in San Francisco and position at the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture should explain the bias. Sometimes Alice’s ideas and actions don’t exactly add up, but McNamee quickly skips over these to go on to praise other actions Alice takes (which yes, do deserve the praise). For instance, there is a huge discrepancy in the population Alice is trying to serve at the price she is trying to serve them. The point of the book isn’t to critically analyze Alice. It does its purpose of adoring Alice, which is definitely hard not to do.McNamee’s carefree style of writing tells every detail of Alice’s easiness with men and kitchen gossip. Although these should definitely be included and are essential to the entire picture of Chez Panisse, it is questionable whether every kitchen staff rumor or every man has to be included. This book is well suited for anyone not looking to take a critical look at Alice Waters. Alice’s humanistic qualities relate to any background. The inspiring coming of age story shows how much can come from nothing. It’s also interesting to see how a little lady by the name of Alice Waters has directly affected the way we eat and think about food in today’s world. Across disciplines, lessons can be learned from Alice’s perseverance and strength, but also her mistakes. Readers are transported into the carefree life and perspective of Alice Waters. This fun-read leaves the reader inspired to challenge a norm and make an impact. McNamee summarizes everything perfectly: it is “much larger enterprise than a restaurant. It is a standard bearer for a system of moral values. It is the leader of a style of cooking, of a social movement, and of a comprehensive philosophy of doing good and living well. It is also a work of art-the work of many, the masterpiece of one… Alice Waters has transformed the way many Americans eat and the way they think about food” (Pp. 6).

  • Julieann Wielga
    2019-05-24 05:54

    I love Little Free Libraries. Fate takes a hand in the books one encounters and therefore reads.I have come to believe that Alice Waters is a genius. Here is a sentence from her cookbook written in 1984."If you plant a garden, it can change your whole style of cooking. Even a tiny plot with just a few herbs, some salad greens, garlic, leeks and beans can have a dramatic effect....a small-scale garden can open a new world of grateful subservience to the seasons. Gardening can become your primary source of culinary inspiration: to be able to go to your back yard, pick something and make a wonderful, simple, impromptu dish of pasta with it is immensely gratifying." I love that phrase "grateful subservience to the seasons".In reading the story of Alice and Chez Panisse, so many things surprised me. No one who was at Chez Panisse on opening night had ever worked in a restaurant, including Alice. That night was pretty much a disaster.A student at Berkely, a trip to France was Alice's inspiration. But the French approach to food fell on very fertile ground. At the end of the book, one of the author's strongest remarks was that no one every questioned Alice's palette. She was has an incredible sensory intelligence. Not only in taste, but also in feel and beauty. This is perhaps a kind of brilliance that we are willing to pay for in buying luxuries but hardly every recognize when tabulating talent.Restaurant life was incredibly demanding- and even more so the Chez Panisse way. Only one choice is offered every night, and that meal is made from the local pickings in Berkeley that day. The restaurant was open 7 days a week. and after everyone had left for the evening and the kitchen had been cleaned, the staff danced and partied together, fueled on a mixtures of cocaine, love affairs, wine and marijauna.At first the restaurant was very French, recipes were built on butter, wine, rich sauces, exotic sea food, but gradually exposures to Italian influences simplified the menu. Alice came to be influenced by Italian home cooks, who find just a few perfect ingredients in their gardens and from that build a dish which highlights an exquisite piece of fruit, or a perfect fresh fish, or perfect vegetable. Alice is said to be behind, despite Julia Child's skepticism, the California Cuisine and the slow food movement.Alice made Chez Panisse a family. So many brilliant people believed in it. Her standards were always only for perfection, and her vision is what everyone bought into. Her zest was contagious. It is very hard to have an institution, especially a restaurant, maintain a vision from 1971 to 2017, and live beyond the founder. Yet Alice has done it. She birthed a restaurant that changed the way that Americans ate and lived. The restaurant demanded the whole lives of its crew, but it also gave back in all ways that a family can. Alice could do this because the table and good food and good talk is so central to well lived lives.

  • Melissa
    2019-05-24 08:09

    Alice Waters is a badass. I love reading books about flawed characters (aren't we all?) who continue to defy the norms and boundaries of what is and is not or what should and should not be. Growing up on a farm and having grandparents who were farmers, I didn't know that food-to-table or slow food was a thing that not everyone had. We loved the idea of store bought cakes and Mac n cheese because as we grew up, that's how our friends ate. As I have grown up and has my own child, we have reverted back to the home-cooking that my grandmothers passed on - homemade bread, preserving food, etc. It does sound more romantic through the writing of this author than in the vernacular of rural America where I grew up. But I love her fight to make school food better.

  • Tuesday H
    2019-05-29 05:51

    It’s an interesting look at an iconic restaurant, one that’s blessed by the decade in which it opened. Today, Chez Panisse would have certainly failed and Alice, although exacting in her standards would probably be no more than a Rachel Ray. This book brings to light how much has changed since Chez Panisse opened and also how much hasn’t. I will be forever grateful for Alice Waters and her never ending crusade to improve our food system.

  • Mikedariano
    2019-06-09 06:47

    Good not great. Will be interesting for people who have been to Chez Panisse, want an insight to Berkley culture, or how to start a business. Waters's recent biography, 2016 or 2017 provides more Alice, less auxiliary characters but I'm glad this book had them.

  • Emily
    2019-05-29 05:08

    Ms. Waters is a bit of an egocentric, to say the least. The book itself was too chatty.

  • Meg Koch
    2019-06-16 05:45

    The title is a synopsis of this book about a well known chef - her restaurant and her life. Great idea, but somehow the book was a slow read. Maybe too many details. Maybe needed stronger/better editing.

  • Brooke Everett
    2019-06-04 07:54

    An easy read that's just somehow overall agreeable: not too challenging, there's no reason to feel bad if you're sitting by the pool and you doze off for a second, but it's certainly not trashy, either.Sometimes I'm not sure where I fit in as a traditional cog in a professional sense, since I handle so many tasks. I loved learning about this organization, which began in such a free-wheeling fashion, and seeing reflections of my own position and duties.It's also a very interesting story about trajectory (please see quote below from page 10). What would have happened if Alice's friend Sara Flanders hadn't encouraged her to go to France? Would Chez Panisse exist?And the food is an incredible character in itself. The menus are so creative and so impractical from a restaurant sense, but that's what makes them such a feat. "She was very smart, but she was in danger of becoming an irredeemable party girl.""That moment was an early instance of what came to be a pattern in Alice's life: people stepping in to rescue her at just the right moment, and in doing so drastically altering her world. Although she has always seemed to lead a well-ordered life, Alice still sometimes characterizes herself as more acted upon than purposeful." p. 10David Goines: "'We had a fair amount of failure. We were willing to fail, which is absolutely essential to any kind of learning.'" p. 26Fritz Streiff: "'Alice falls in love,' says Fritz. 'This is the story of Alice's life. She falls in love with a dish. She falls in love with a lamp. She falls in love with a bowl of cherries. She falls in love with a man. Alice loves men.'" p. 69"The Chez Panisse culture's oscillation between joy and gloom was by now an inextricable component of its identity. Fame had come, and with it an increase in revenues; then Alice and the staff didn't want to have to live up to the glory." p. 155"Nearly always, Chez Panisse managed to present a calm, contented face to the world. Nearly always, there was something going haywire behind the scenes." p. 156Chef Paul Bertolli: "The frustrating part was that there was a last-minuteness to a lot of her decision making. People call her a visionary. I think she has reactions more than visions. She can see best in a moment of crisis. When everything was about to happen, and something wasn't right, she had no qualms about saying, 'We've got to do something about this.' Well, she could have done something about it three hours ago, too, if she had applied herself, but there is something about this live moment when she has a reaction and things have to change." p. 183"Alice had become known as the mother of the New American Cooking, or California cuisine, as it came to be called. Was she the personification of this new movement because she grabbed credit from others? Was it because she always went running to the nearest camera or reporter's notebook? The answer is not simple. Certainly she liked the attention, the admiration, the fame. What is determinative, however, is not so much Alice herself as contemporary culture, which demands that every story have a hero. If you're a writer, you'll find it very hard to sell an article about an idea unless that idea is embodied in a hero (or a villain). People don't want abstractions; they want flesh-and-blood heroes. In Alice, so soft-spoken, so passionate, yet also so flustered and inarticulate sometimes, people had found a hero who was also unmistakably, unheroically human." p. 204-205

  • Robyn
    2019-06-11 05:00

    I'm giving this one up as a bad job. Chez Panisse is a legend around here, and when I was going to Cal even more so. When I asked my absolutely-uninterested-in-chefs-or-gourmet-food-or-expensive-restaurants mother if she knew who Alice Waters was, she immediately said "Yeah, I mean, essentially. I couldn't tell you anything about her, but I know she's from that restaurant in Berkeley that helped kick off the local food movement in the 70s." So, yeah, being a Bay Area girl born and raised and a Berkeley girl at heart, this should have been a book for me. But instead ohmigod so dull! I don't know if McNamee thought people wouldn't trust that he did due diligence since Waters approved his project, but he just kept cramming in "so-and-so told me..." or "in the words of so-and-so..." absolutely everything he wrote had to be backed up by quotes from multiple sources. That made really slow going and most of the time events just did not move forward because it took so long to get everybody's opinions on the page. (I also could have done with fewer menus and more events) Plus, what is the story here? Alice Waters has built her life on being irresponsible and falling in love with anyone who gets near her with a little flash in their personality. Everybody who comes into contact with her enables her to continue being irresponsible, saving the restaurant, bailing her out financially, allowing her to go without paying them or being straight with them, etc. I was really disgusted at the part where they talked about how this restaurant that was "one big family" "such a family" "always making room for anyone" "allowing anyone to take any time they needed" etc., would fire people and the fired person would know it was Alice's decision, but Alice would never be the one to do the firing, would never speak a word of negativity to the person. Yeah, that's a family. Do a bad job, Alice doesn't like it, she won't give you feedback, she'll just have someone else fire you so she can keep her hands clean and stay above the fray. I am beyond grateful for what Chez Panisse brought to food. I wouldn't have the opportunity (or knowledge or even awareness) to cook a quarter of the dishes I enjoy making if they hadn't blazed the trail they did. But I am never someone who thinks the end justifies the means, and I simply hate when people get rewarded for bad behavior. So instead of forcing myself to finish a boring-as-hell novel about someone who rapidly loses my respect with every page, I'll let this one go and preserve the last of my appreciation for Waters and what she did. One unrelated note: Waters was at UCSB as a freshman the same year a relative of mine was, and left the same time that relative did, for the same reason. Was pretty funny to think they may have stumbled across each other at the time.________________________________First thoughts before reading:When you flip through an authorized biography and see that the author has included a 3 page list of the dates he had recorded interviews with various involved people, as well as a 4.5 page bibliography of books he read to prepare to write the book, and an 11 page index with entries such as "Chez Panisse, moral conflict inherent in" and "Waters Alice Louise, shifting moods of", you can pretty well expect a biography that covers it all. Now to discover whether the book is actually any good, or just has great depth and breadth.

  • Amy
    2019-05-23 04:46

    I enjoyed the aspects of Alice Waters's cooking and restaurant that emphasized the movement towards using fresh, local, organic produce, sustainable meat and seafood, and the Edible Schoolyard and Yale Sustainable Food projects. Otherwise, I thought the author repeated a couple things one-too-many times: "it seemed like people came into Alice's life just at the opportune moment...", "Alice received credit when it should have been others...", it just got redundant and annoying. Overall, living in the Bay Area, having been to the Chez Panisse Cafe with my parents, student teaching and getting to be with students in the Edible Schoolyard at MLK, Jr. middle school, and now teaching and living about the environment made this an enjoyable read.Use for teaching:page 228 Chez Panisse and its extended family and like-minded people elsewhere were a very small force to stand up against the juggernaut of industrial agriculture. The situation was bad when Chez Panisse opened, in 1971, but it was radically worse fifteen years later.Genetically modified corn had made possible the production of high fructose corn syrup at vastly lower cost than any other sugar, and that corn syrup was now appearing not only in desserts but in an astonishing range of food products. Consumers often didn't perceive the added sugar, but they came to prefer the products that contained it. It was , in effect, addictive. And it drove people still further away from the somewhat bitter-tasting foods-broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens-that were the most nutritious. Fast-food companies, and soon other restaurants, discovered that portion sizes could be increased at low cost, and that larger portions were preferred by many consumers. The corporations were offering to school districts special deals that would reduce their food costs substantially; cafeterias that actually cooked and served real food, therefore, were being replaced by vending machines and microwaved, portion-controlled meals-ready-to-eat. High schools rarely required their students to stay on campus at lunchtime anymore, so it hardly mattered if they served nutritious food, because McDonald's and its kind were very often conveniently situated nearby. "These guys find where the exits are on the freeways before they've been built," says Alice, "and they buy the land next to the school.""High-fructose corn syrup," wrote the New York Times, "can hinder the body's ability to process sugar, and can promote faster fat growth than sweeteners derived from cane sugar....Since the advent of the syrup, consumption of all sweeteners has soared; the average American's intake has increased about 35 percent....A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the rise of type 2 diabetes since 1980 has closely paralleled the increased use of sweeteners, particularly corn syrup." (Mark Santora, New York Times, January 12, 2006.)Americans were getting fatter fast. Fast food-high in calories, low in nutrition-was the fastest-growing segment of the food economy. It was cheap, and seductive. "Food shouldn't be fast," Alice insisted. "And it shouldn't be cheap."

  • Judy
    2019-05-29 04:46

    Chez Panisse is the famous restaurant in Berkeley, CA, which opened on August 28, 1971, with the credo, "fresh, local, seasonal and where possible organic ingredients," and is still going strong. I know that for a fact because my husband and I had dinner there on September 22, 2010 in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary. I have been intending to read McNamee's biography of Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse, ever since the night about three years ago when I cooked a meal with local, seasonal and where possible organic ingredients for my brother-in-law, a preeminent natural foods guy. He had been under the weather that day and almost did not appear for this gathering at my mom's house in Michigan. When he finished eating, his color improved from pale to glowing, his spirits revived, he told me it was a meal worthy of being served at Chez Panisse. It was a high point in my cooking life. So when husband and I set off for our roadtrip to the Redwoods and the Bay Area, I brought the book along. Roadtrips are not conducive to reading for me. After driving, sightseeing, hiking and all, I can read about ten pages before falling into delicious sleep. By the time we returned home, I was only about 35 pages in. But I read the rest over the next two days, which was perfect because I had been there, I had visited the kitchen (as all guests are invited to do) and I had experienced one of the best meals of my life. Like most successful undertakings, Chez Panisse began as an impractical dream, under financed and built with love and enthusiasm by a group of dedicated people. The book captures those beginnings in all their crazy glory. In fact, the restaurant never showed a profit for almost ten years, but it also stayed in the same location and never closed. The most entertaining aspect was the wealth of stories about Alice Waters, the chefs, the staff and the incredible adventures they had. The most enlightening was my realization that before Michael Pollan and his Omnivore's Dilemma, before Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, before the whole entire movement towards responsible farming and eating habits, came Alice Waters. Having been intimately involved with the beginnings of the organic food movement in Ann Arbor in 1970, I felt completed when I had finished Alice Waters' story and learned what it was like to live through those days in Berkeley while I lived through them in Ann Arbor. Finally but not least at all, there is Alice herself. In a tiny body, barely over five feet tall, with a huge heart and mercurial temperament, she has bravely, rashly, incorrigibly followed every dream she ever had. She has created a huge impact in the world with her slow food movement (as opposed to fast food). She has scores of admirers and enemies and is the embodiment of one of my favorite realities: well-behaved women seldom make history. If you believe in the power of food, dreams and/or women, you will love this book.

  • Sharon
    2019-05-27 04:52

    I am grateful to Anthony Bourdain for summing it up so neatly when he described Alice Waters as "Pol Pot in a muu muu." Despite its effusive title and starstruck gushing at the outset, this book quickly revealed to me that while I am very glad to have dined at Chez Panisse, I am gladder still that I didn't run into Alice Waters while there.

  • Tryn
    2019-05-29 08:43

    Okay, I did not read this biography beginning to end. I browsed, and read big chunks of it. But I got enough from the content to know that Alice Waters is incredibly cool. Even if you never pick up this book, you need to know a little about Alice. In 1971, when she was just 27, she opened a restaurant in Berkely, California, because she wanted to create a place where food would be prepared with attention to every detail, from the freshest, seasonal, local, usually organic ingredients. At the time even the best restaurants in the U.S. used prepared, canned, or frozen foods. She wanted a place where friends could gather, talk, laugh, and eat simple, delicious, fresh food. Even though Alice did not go to cooking school or receive any formal training other than one summer making crab salad sandwiches in a department store café, and even though she claims to have little business sense and often operated her restaurant in the red during the first years of its existence, now 40 years after her restaurant opened, Alice Waters is one of the most admired and successful figures among foodies. Alice fell in love with all things French when she studied abroad in college. She came home wanting to wear French clothes and eat French food. She wanted to live the kind of life where all the details matter and are well thought-out. Her restaurant dinning room has eclectic chairs from estate sales, mix-matched but beautiful china and flatware, and large flower arrangements full of whatever is happening in nature at the time, even apple tree boughs with the apples still on them. Her gifts are her acute senses, her impeccable taste memory, her attention to detail, her welcoming spirit, her soulful connection to nature, and her intense sociability. Alice has a strong sense of purpose and mission, but also amazing flexibility. And so in starting a restaurant, this woman somehow started a food revolution. Her restaurant has repeatedly been named the best in the United Stakes. She is sought after as a speaker. She is held up as an icon for food lovers and gourmets. She is the hero of organic farmers and farmer’s market purveyors and food journalists. Her crusade is to change school lunch programs to include more fresh, natural, seasonal ingredients. She wants children to learn to grow and prepare their own food and feel connected to the earth, to recognize a stewardship over it. Her audacious motto is “How we eat can change the world.” Alice Waters is an idealist and I adore idealists.

  • Lee
    2019-05-29 07:03

    So a disclaimer - the only thing I knew about Alice Waters going into this book was that she's the author of a cookbook I really like. But when I saw this book at the library, I thought it would be interesting to read more about this the same way I enjoyed reading Paula Deen's memoir, perhaps.And, as my stars indicate, this is a well-written book. The author does a great job weaving multiple histories together - of Alice Waters, of the people around her, even of the local foods/slow foods/sustainability movement. But I have to admit, the more I read about Alice Waters, the more I sat in disbelief. People actually act like that? One chef that worked for her is quoted in the book as saying,"The frustrating part was that there was a last-minuteness to a lot of her decision-making. People call her a visionary. I think she has reactions more than visions. She can see best in a moment of crisis...she could have done something about it three hours ago, too, if she had applied herself, but there is something about this live moment when she has a reaction and things have to change."It's also really interesting to read about the various conflicts she experienced over the years about who should receive credit for what. In fact, it reminds me in some ways of how people talk about the Martha Stewart empire - a lot of people putting a lot of effort into an enterprise that carries one person's name. Which begs the question - which is more important? The ideas? Or the name? Something else I found a bit astonishing is the pattern the author presents of her relying on others to find solutions to difficult problems, and I have to admit, there seems to be a certain irony to reading about a restaurant that represents such dear initiatives (like sustainability and local eating) but carries its air of exclusivity because of pricing.That said, there's something admirable about the whimsical confidence and vision Alice Waters brings to her work. Her fierce belief in speaking out for what she believes in is to be commended.

  • Babs
    2019-06-12 09:06

    I am about the furthest thing from a "foodie" that there can be and I knew almost nothing about Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, but I really, really enjoyed this book! I went to Chez Panisse once (must have been the Cafe because it was upstairs and it was lunch), but I was definitely uninformed at the time. McNamee gathered excellent research and wove the story together wonderfully, from the fateful study abroad trip to Paris of a young, college-aged woman through the 30-year anniversary of Chez Panisse and an age 60+ Alice Waters.I particularly appreciated a story of Alice Waters and Julia Child at the California Culinary Academy in 1981 - such different ideas and approaches to food (McNamee's subtitle - "The romantic, impractical, often eccentric, ultimately brilliant making of a food revolution" highlights this difference), although Waters later credited Julia Child as one of the four women "who had informed her idea of what a great female cook might be." What struck me most in this book is how little, actual cooking Waters seemed to do. She seemed to be about the idea of cooking, supervising chefs, and then got swept up in the whole "food movement" world: organic, slow.I read this book after reading Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, a book about a 29/30-year-old who, in one year, cooked her way through Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and I think it enhanced my enjoyment of this book. Not to take credit away from McNamee, whose writing style is very enjoyable.An interesting read for anyone who eats. (This from a Kraft macaroni & cheese girl is high praise indeed, I would think!) ;^)

  • Rachel
    2019-06-10 04:02

    There's no doubt that Alice Waters has become an icon for fresh, local, organic, simple, and sustainable cuisine. Her name crops up practically everywhere on the subject and, as I learned through this book, many restraunts propogating this type of cuisine obtained their inspiration, at least by some measure, from Waters's example. McNamee's biography - both of Waters and Chez Panisse - helps to round out the story of this famous restaurant and its unlikely restraunteuse - a 27-year-old woman who devised to open a restaurant with no formal training and no money. Most profoundly, the book elucidates how great things are often the product of a slow evolution. Chez Panisse was heralded as a remarkable restuarant in its early days, but the ideology attributable to Chez Panisse took decades to develop. "Simple food" doesn't exactly come to mind when one considers meals involving calf's brains and complicated French reduction sauces, but in fact these types of ingredients were not uncommon inclusions on the menu in the 1970's under the flourid chef Jeremiah Tower. All in all, this biography offers a satisfying account of the restaurant's history as it intertwined with Waters's life. McNamee's approach to the story's telling, however, can hardly be called objective; he is very transparently one among the restaurant's many worshippers. In bestowing his written praise and affection, McNamee also tends toward the repetetive, making the book a fair bit longer than is necessary.

  • Katie
    2019-06-21 06:00

    I had heard of Chez Panisse before, although I have never had the pleasure of dining there. I plan to one day, but for now I decided that reading about it could be interesting.Alice Waters and Chez Panisse is a history of the lady and her restaurant and how absolutely improbable her success has been. In reading this book you see that while her palette may be impeccable, her stubbornness to do things her way caused huge financial losses that for anyone else would have brought their restaurant down around their ears.Alice Waters is as bold as brass and through her seemingly unquenchable charm and sheer determination made her restaurant not only survive, but flourish. Not content with just a restaurant that serves food that is organic, local and sustainably farmed, she has expanded her ideas to bringing gardens to schools, to not just teach children and college students alike about food, but provide them with food that is good for them.All very important work, and work that I hope continues into the future. In the meantime, it was wonderful to read about that heady time in the early 70's when you were able to do crazy things like just start a restaurant and hire no one with really any qualifications and have it actually work.A great read if it is a subject that interests you.*** 1/2 = glad I read it, I enjoyed it