Acclaimed restaurateur and cookbook author Alice Waters brought her message of sustainability and slow food to Princeton Oct. 14, when she addressed a large crowd in McCosh 50 as the Belknap Visitor in the Humanities.
Using — somewhat hesitatingly — a PowerPoint presentation for the first time, Waters shared photographs and memories from a book she is working on that commemorates 40 years of Chez Panisse restaurant, the Chez Panisse Foundation she began 25 years ago, and the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which she launched in 2003.
Inspired by the free-speech movement of the 1960s and a subsequent trip to France, Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., in 1971, featuring seasonal, locally grown products. The restaurant was “a passion and still is,” Waters reminisced. “It was never about money. It was about feeding people something tasty and memorable.”
After Waters had a child, she became concerned about the future. “I thought that if I could work in schools and demonstrate growing food … it could be transformational,” she said. The result was Waters’ Edible Education program — now in its 15th year in Berkeley public schools, where it involves 1,000 children, as well as in other cities in California and North Carolina. An Edible Education program was scheduled to open in a Brooklyn public school Oct. 15, Waters added.
Edible Education moved into higher education eight years ago when the Yale Sustainable Food Project became operational. Waters, who also met during her visit with Princeton students involved with the University’s sustainability efforts, likened her vision of educating youth and supporting farmers to “a stimulus plan.”
“You put the money in the schools, you feed all the children in a beautiful, delicious way, you buy from the farmers who are local and sustainable — and the ranchers and the dairymen. The parents are assured their children are going to be fed well. So the money comes back to them and it benefits everybody,” she said.