Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution by Thomas McNamee Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution

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


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    Sarah

    Aug 16, 2011

    rated it
    liked it

    Shelves:
    bio-memoir,
    food

    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 wil

    P.S. If you don’t want to read the book (which is enjoyable), here is a timeline that hits the high points: http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/…
    …more

    Molly

    Mar 04, 2009

    rated it
    it was amazing

    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.

    O

    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.


    …more

    Schmacko

    Mar 21, 2009

    rated it
    it was amazing

    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 foo


    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.

    …more