Alice Waters: The Woman Behind the Throne? (Or, Um, The Push for White House Chef)

Alice Waters
Alice Waters

Alice Waters.

Chef. Restaurateur. Cookbook author. Agricultural activist.

Now add political activist to the list, too.

Stir well. See what cooks up.

Since 1971, Ms. Waters has overseen the stove and tables at her celebrated and innovative Berkeley, California restaurant, Chez Panisse. She’s the force behind the Edible Schoolyard program that “demonstrates the transformative power of growing, cooking, and sharing food.”

In an interview with The New York Times’ Tara Parker-Pope, published on December 11, 2008 (“Alice Waters and Obama’s ‘Kitchen’ Cabinet”), we learn that Ms. Waters and the other 89 influential foodies who sent a letter to President Obama REALLY want to influence the First Family’s choice of White House chef.

For me, the most interesting question that Ms. Parker-Pope asked Ms. Waters touches on the overall impact of the White House kitchen on the rest of the country:


How do you think the culinary decisions of the White House change our views of food in this country?


Americans don’t have deep gastronomic roots. They wanted to get away from the cultures of Europe or wherever they came from. We stirred up that melting pot pretty quickly. Then fast food came in and took over. We have to bring children into a new relationship to food that connects them to culture and agriculture. I think the demonstration of that idea at the White House could be profound. I can imagine the people who work there eating there. The whole idea of making a sort of democracy within that kitchen is of great interest to me. It would be a team of people, not just a head chef handing down orders. I can’t tell you how influential it could be.