The frenzy around Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary

The Edible Schoolyard display in Maiden Lane in San Francisco on Thursday. Photo: Queena Kim/Bay Citizen

The next few days in Berkeley will be all about Alice. You know, Alice Waters. Forty years ago, on August 28, 1971, she opened Chez Panisse in a small shingled building  on Shattuck Avenue. The inaugural dinner consisted of pate en croute, duck with olives, salad, and almond torte. The dinner was a few hours late, cobbled together by a number of well-meaning but amateur chefs, but it was good. And fresh. And it started a transformation in California cuisine that has reverberated around the country.

Dozens of superstars of the culinary world will be descending on Berkeley this weekend to commemorate that first dinner. With tonight’s kickoff cocktail party at the Berkeley Art Museum featuring major celebrities of the food world, to the all-day public celebration there on Saturday, to the series of private dinners at places like Michael Pollan’s house, many, many people in Berkeley will be thinking about Chez Panisse and the impact the restaurant and Waters have had on cuisine.

Much of the United States is also paying attention to this anniversary celebration. TV crews have been rolling into Berkeley with some regularity. Jenna Bush Hager, the former president’s daughter, for example, filmed a segment for The Today Show recently at The Edible Schoolyard at the Boys and Girls Club in Hunter’s Point.

Chez Panisse: The Next Generation by L. John Harris (who served as a waiter on opening night)

Thursday night, as Tracey Taylor and I waited for a panel discussion on “The Legends of the Gourmet Ghetto,” hosted by L. John Harris and featuring four other culinary impresarios who greatly influenced California Cuisine – Victoria Wise, Joyce Goldstein, Alice Medrich and Bruce Aidells (and a benefit for the Berkeley Public Library Foundation) – Tracey joked that Berkeleyside’s Thursday wire could have been filled just with stories about Alice Waters. She restrained herself and only put up four stories.

But I thought it would be fun – and instructive –to post a roundup of the Alice madness. Or at least a sampling. When I checked, I found more than 100 articles on Alice Waters that had been printed in the past week. So after the jump is Tracey’s idea: a sort of wire that is “All about Alice.”

What Merce Cunningham and Olafur Eliasson ate at Chez Panisse [Art Info]
Chez Panisse is now available in T-Shirt form [Village Voice]
Alice Waters spawns many restaurant careers [AP]
Why Alice matters: The Book of Chez Panisse [Huffington Post]
Alice Waters discusses Edible Schoolyard [Nola]
Alice Waters throws picnic [Bay Citizen]
Alice Waters and friends take over Maiden Lane [Inside Scoop]
Edible Schoolyard lunch box [SFist Eats]
Chez Panisse at 40 by one who worked there [David Lebovitz]
Salad Friday ala Alice Waters [Memphis Commercial Appeal]
Jake Gyllenhaal teaches kids to garden [Contact Music]
20 salads of summer [Washington Post]
Jenna Bush, Alice Waters, Jake Gyllenhaal and The Edible Schoolyard [Today Show]
Farro pasta by Alice Waters
40 years of sustainable food [NPR]
Alice Waters celebrates 40 years [NBC]
Does Alice Waters eat in the nude? [Creative Loafing]
Alice Waters and Levi’s [Bay Area Bites]
Alice Waters: A Short Film [City Farmer News]
Waters run deep [Grist Magazine]
The real triumph of Alice Waters [Gilt]
KQED’s Michael Krasny interviews Alice Waters [Bay Area Bites]
Chez Panisse turns 40 [Zester Daily]
Alice Waters on budget-friendly chicken [Food and Wine]
Chez Panisse built on simple success [SF Chronicle]
Chez Panisse timeline [Inside Scoop]
Chez Panisse’s wines [SF Chronicle]
The Hemi Q&A: Alice Waters [Hemispheres]

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  • EBGuy

    Top this one: the United Airlines Inflight magazine, Hemispheres.
    I’d say she’s everywhere…

  • deirdre

    Thanks for putting some effort into that news roundup.  There are many, many ripples on the pond that is Alice.

  • Thanks EBGuy — we added yours to the master list!

  • Sarah Henry

    I like the bio on the Hemisphere story, which reads: “DAVID CARR, who covers media and culture for The New York Times,
    had a chili cheese dog before he spoke with Waters, and he feels awful
    about it.”

  • Aram Jahn

    Some of us can’t afford Chez Panisse. All of this feels a tad “in your face.” The economy has a lot of us hurting; you might think about that? I like Alice Waters and have nothing against her or her restaurants and I admire her influence on American thinking about food. All this just seems…a bit much. I’m probably in the vast minority here…

  • Aram, I am sorry if the stories on the Chez Panisse anniversary feel like a slap because your economic situation makes things tight. That was not our intent. However Berkeleyside is a news organization and one of the biggest local stories now is Chez Panisse. So we are covering it. It will all over by Monday.

  • Heather W.

    No, you’re not, Aram. It’s deflating to have the unattainable part of Berkeley high society rubbed in our faces. Repeatedly. 

  • Dan Alpert

    I can understand your feeling and actually have rarely been to Chez Panisse myself, for economic reasons as well.  Still, I think it is a Berkeley institution, and has really influenced food in America and therfore merits such notoriety.  Plus, I find it interesting.