Fundraising underpins Chez Panisse’s birthday festivities

Chefs at work in the Chez Panisse kitchen. Photo: angrywayne/Creative Commons.

Forty years after a young Alice Waters opened what was to become one of the most famous restaurants in the world, the Chez Panisse owner is using the anniversary to focus less on the brown-shingled eatery and more on her mission to see kids eating healthily at school.

With this in mind, the Chez Panisse Foundation is to be renamed the Edible Schoolyard Organization this Fall, so that a program that originated in the shadow of the restaurant is now clearly positioned as where Waters is devoting most of her energies.

That’s not to say that the birthday will not be marked with celebrations, many of them guaranteed to delight the taste-buds. Indeed, Waters and her team have orchestrated a full calendar of events over the long weekend of August 26-30, from large-scale cocktail parties to intimate dinners, from educational classes to creative gatherings.

And graduates from the “university of Alice Waters” will be out in force, as Chez Panisse protegés such as Jean-Pierre Moullé, Sally Clarke, Charlie Hallowell, Russell Moore, Gayle Pirie, and Charlene Reis are put to work whipping up feasts.


The common refrain? Every dinner, and every event, will be a fundraiser for the Edible Schoolyard Organization. The Edible Schoolyard, established in 1995 as a one-acre garden and kitchen classroom at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, is now used as a model internationally by educators and health professionals, and has affiliate programs in locations including New Orleans and New York.

Kids at work at the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School, Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The celebrations begin on Friday August 26 with an edible installation and cocktail party at the U.C. Berkeley Art Museum hosted by Chez Panisse, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and art and food collective OPENrestaurant, in collaboration with artist Ann Hamilton. It will feature mulberry cocktails and a taste of summer from Chez Panisse, with wines by Smith-Madrone.

BAM/PFA is also marking the occasion with a retrospective of French filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, whose movies gave Waters the name for Chez Panisse.

For details on tickets and reservations for all the events mentioned here, visit the Chez Panisse Foundation website.

On the same night, which is the eve of Chez Panisse’s actual birthday, Stanlee Gatti and Alice Waters will host a Birthday Eve dinner “with all the flourishes” cooked by Jean-Pierre Moullé with Sally Clarke of Clarke’s in London. The dinner at the downstairs Café on the same night is already fully booked, so perhaps the less said the better. Just know that names can be added to a waiting list.


Free, and open to the public, is an OPENeducation event at the Berkeley Art Museum on Saturday August 27. OPENrestaurant has already begun to transform BAM’s outdoor spaces into edible gardens –and crops will be harvested at the event and used in interactive cooking installations.

That night, chef David Tanis will prepare a Provençal feast in the restaurant honoring Nicolas Pagnol. Tickets are $2,500 per person, but the dinner is fully reserved with a waiting list providing the only chance of being able to participate — as is dinner in the Café on the same night, prepared by chefs Cal Peternell, Beth Wells, and Nathan Alderson, which costs $1,000 per person.

Perhaps more accessible is the “Chez Panisse Chez Soi” series of dinners where, around the Bay, friends of Chez Panisse will open their homes for dinners prepared by Chez Panisse alumni chefs, with special guest co-hosting.

Coinciding with all the dinners, Chez Panisse alumna Samin Nosrat is organizing Eating for Education, a grassroots effort to garner support for school kitchen/garden programs nationwide. Across the country, restaurants and individuals are being invited to join the celebration by hosting their own dinners in conjunction with the Bay Area events.

Finally, and as reported here before, Tuesday August 30 will see the start of a new UC Berkeley course, “Edible Education 101: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement”, instructed by author and Cal professor Michael Pollan and Nikki Henderson, Executive Director of People’s Grocery.


For details of all the events, visit the Chez Panisse Foundation website.