Waters, AliceAlternative names
When Alice Waters and a small band of friends founded a neighborhood bistro called Chez Panisse in 1971, they named it after one of the characters in Marcel Pagnol's 1930s film trilogy about two generations of families in the small town Provencal atmosphere of the Marseilles waterfront - an act of homage to the genial comedy, sentiment, and informality of the classic movies in which so much is centered around eating and drinking. Alice Waters has said that from the very beginning that she and her partners tried to do things the way they would like to have them done at a dinner party at home.
The downstairs dining room has always offered only one fixed-price menu, of three to five courses, but a different one every night, each designed to be appropriate to the season and each composed so as to show off the very finest ingredients obtainable. The upstairs café opened in 1980 with an open kitchen, a wood-burning pizza oven, and an a la carte menu. Café Fanny, a stand-up café that serves breakfast and lunch, was opened a few miles away in 1984.
Alice Waters and Chez Panisse are convinced that the best-tasting food is organically grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound, by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. The quest for such ingredients has largely determined the restaurant's cuisine. Chez Panisse endeavors to make dining there partake of the immediacy and excitement of vegetables just out of the garden, fruit right off the branch, and fish straight out of the sea.
Chez Panisse has long been in the vanguard of the movement for local farmers' markets. For several years, it actively supported the Garden Project, a model program that changes lives by teaching organic gardening skills to former San Francisco County Jail inmates. The restaurant also works developing an edible schoolyard at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Junior High School, a project that will involve students directly in planting, gardening, harvesting, cooking, and eating, with the goal of teaching them respect for one another and responsibility for the planet by illuminating the vital relationship of food to their lives.
- Excerpted from press releases issued by Chez Panisse.
From the guide to the Chez Panisse, Inc. records, 1966-2007, (The Bancroft Library)