Alice Waters

I hope that everyone knows and admires Alice Waters like I do for her contributions to healthy eating. But in case you’re not clued up, let me enlighten you.

Way back in 1974, my future brother-in-law—a undergrad at Cal Berkeley—took me to Chez Panisse for lunch. It had been open about three years at that point, but I knew or cared nothing about healthy eating then and don’t remember that Alice Waters’ name ever came up. All I knew was that I had the best salad I’d ever tasted. Now, for me, growing up in suburban Chicago, I only knew that a “California burger” meant it had lettuce and tomato on it. How pathetic was that? Little did I know that in lunching at Chez Panisse, I was eating at what will go down in history as one of the great restaurants.

Fast forward 30 years and Alice Waters has become a name to be reckoned with. Chez Panisse was recognized as Gourmet Magazine’s Best Restaurant in America in 2001. Had a Michelin star from 2006-2009. Etcetera. But the best thing about Chez Panisse is its role as the living laboratory for the farm-to-table revolution—where Alice Waters’ passion for fresh, wholesome, locally grown food was realized.

In the 1990’s, Waters partnered with a neighborhood middle school to create The Edible Schoolyard Project. She blended her Montessori teaching philosophy with her commitment to locally grown, organic food and built a curriculum that teaches about food hands-on. Students grow vegetables and fruits and other ingredients in a garden on school grounds. They take classes that teach cooking skills and the values of nourishment, stewardship, and community. Today, a network of more than 5,800 schools in 75 countries exists to teach these values and grow healthier people. 

There may never be another Alice Waters, but who knows how many other food heroes she will inspire?

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