And to Think it all Started with a French Cookbook: Forty Years of Chez Panisse

Alice Waters often said that Elizabeth David’s  French Provincial Cooking started the whole thing, meaning Chez Panisse the restaurant. And of course, the ensuing local foods movement.

The following excerpt comes from a review I wrote, published today on the Web site of The New York Journal of Books:

The many talented cooks and chefs she hired over the years—Jeremiah Tower, Paul Bertolli, Lindsey Shere, Joyce Goldstein, and Judy Rogers— went on to influence other restaurants and customers across the United States, spreading Ms. Waters’s philosophy of good, wholesome, locally grown food. As Ms. Waters says, “Under Jeremiah’s [Tower] incandescent leadership, the kitchen was bursting with boldness and nerve, as he aspired to new heights of gastronomic glory. We were flying by the seat of our pants—and every day we never knew quite what would happen.”

Forty Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering reads like a family album, arranged chronologically and complete with photographs of the family, which is how Ms. Waters basically considered everyone who worked at the restaurant. Many of her former employees and friends contributed passages to the book, highlighting special events in the life of the restaurant.

Ms. Waters’s comments stand out because of the larger font used to emphasize her words. Photographs of Chez Panisse’s numerous anniversaries, dishes, books, and people bring the past to life. And great food writers like Edna Lewis and Marion Cunningham, Elizabeth David and Richard Olney appear, testifying to their impact and that of Ms. Waters on the American food scene.

Read the rest of my review of Forty Years of Chez Panisse HERE.

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