Chef Alice Waters assesses benefits of old age (2023)

Chef Alice Waters assesses benefits of old age (1)
Alice Waters began serving organic, local food at Chez Panisse in 1971. (GILLES MINGASSON)

Alice Waters has helped change the way Americans eat. Chez Panisse, her restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., began serving organic, locally harvested food when it opened in 1971 and Waters, now 69, was a mere 27 years old. Today, Chez Panisse is consistently named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.

Waters has tried to get Americans to rethink what they eat, promoting everything from the slow-food (as opposed to fast-food) movement to more-nutritious school lunches. Her ninth cookbook, “The Art of Simple Food II,” has just been released.

Waters said she isn’t slowing down, though she is contemplating new endeavors: “I want to find the people who have the same set of values [as I do] and really want to make change happen in public education.”

She recently spoke to The Post about aging, and how it feels to grow older.

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Chef Alice Waters assesses benefits of old age (2)

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What are the tricks older people use to stay wiser, a step ahead? Here are tips from an ex-ballplayer, an ex-president, a gorilla expert, a sexologist and a former Supreme Court justice, among others, via writer Laura Hambleton.

(Video) Food Values with Alice Waters


What are the tricks older people use to stay wiser, a step ahead? Here are tips from an ex-ballplayer, an ex-president, a gorilla expert, a sexologist and a former Supreme Court justice, among others, via writer Laura Hambleton.

1. Dr. Ruth Westheimer - Concentrate on conversation "I think we have to talk more...I see young people holding hands and with the other hand they’re texting. People are going to lose, and not just young people, older ones are going to lose the ability to converse, the ability of conversation.'' In photo, Westheimer with President Obama at the 2013 Planned Parenthood National Conference in April. Pete Souza/THE WHITE HOUSE

(Video) Women, Waters and Wastelands with Dr. Sharon Blackie

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Let’s talk about aging.

I feel like old age in America is a very sad thing. I have been many different places around the world where getting older is something you look forward to. You have an opportunity to be someone who is respected, someone who is contributing to life in a very important way. That’s not happening in this country.

I have watched a lot of people feel like they’re being punished as they get older. It’s so wrong, and we have to figure out how to bring them into our lives in a beautiful way. What a workforce is there, a group of people who really want to be engaged.

They don’t want to sit in front of the television in the old folks home.

I think about my parents. They died, not because they got sick, but I think my father really died because he didn’t have meaningful work. My father worked his whole life. He hardly ever took time off. He was an industrial psychologist. My mother took care of four kids. She never had a job job. That was her job, although she had a garden and she painted.

You want your old age to be different.

In a word, yes. My parents were following the very best prescription for old age in America as it is now. They kept themselves healthy. They took walks every day. They went to cultural events. They went to concerts. They took the bus every place they could go. They lived in Berkeley, which is so accommodating to people who are handicapped or older. They took advantage of all of that, but it wasn’t really a gratifying life for them, at a certain point. It just wasn’t. My mother and father were 90 and 91.

No piazza to watch the world go by, nobody walking by, nobody on the streets anymore to say hello. There’s some civilization for old people in New York, but it’s in isolated little pockets. When I heard 50 percent of people in New York live by themselves, it took my breath away. How lonely.

So how would you fix that?

Have older people teach children in school, reading to children or engaging in some other way. They could come to the schools, to be fed at the schools, to be there at lunchtime, and to really shell the peas and have lunch with the kids.

Do you imagine yourself doing that?

I have some fantasies about being a vegetable vendor in a farmers market. In Italy, there used to be women who shelled the fava beans right by the table. If you want shelled fava beans, they cost a little bit more. There was somebody tying little bundles of herbs, so you didn’t have to buy a whole bunch of things, of herbs, celery and onions, to make a bouquet garni. You had somebody making that little bunch for you.

I could see myself there. I’ve always imagined myself out in front of Chez Panisse selling bouquets of violets and selling buckwheat pancakes like they do on the streets in Paris.

(Video) "Slow Food Values in a Fast Food Culture," with Alice Waters

That would be different.

I’m always changing my work, as there are endless ways to think about food. But I’m in this very political place right now and feel like we have to collaborate in different ways to make a big impression, to change the way that we are living our lives, which is destroying our health and the planet. I certainly want to feel like I have tried to take care of this planet for the kids of this world. I really have to do something.

Ever thought of moving to Washington? I know you come here regularly.

Not moving to Washington; not sure I could handle the weather. [She laughs.] I absolutely think it is important to do something dramatic in Washington. I go back every year since Obama’s inauguration to do these events there. [Waters helped organize the annual Sips & Suppers, where celebrity chefs cook meals in District homes to raise money for the D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table, which distribute food to the hungry.] It is a good beginning. But we need to feed everybody in school for free. That’s my big vision.

And what about your future?

I have a tortilla idea that I want to make a business, in the Gandhi way — you are what you make. Maybe you make these wholesome organic tortillas and serve them hot. You give them to people to take home. Maybe that would be connected to a housing project. Or really working at the government level in other countries that are predisposed to edible education, like Brazil, Peru and Chile.

I guess I don’t really believe in retirement. I believe in shorter days and maybe in weekends! [She laughs.]

How is your health?

Knock on wood, it’s good. I don’t think about it in the way that I have to eat certain things to be healthy. I think health is the outcome of eating well.

It’s difficult to sleep. Very difficult with many things on our minds. I’ve had difficulty sleeping for 20 years.

Even now?

Yes. Yes. I’ve been looking to all of my mentors. When my friend Lulu [Lulu Payraud, owner of the vineyard and winery Domaine Tempier], who lives in Provence and who’s 95, wakes up in the middle of the night, she drinks her tisane [herbal tea] and listens to the French version of the BBC news. Then she goes to sleep again and wakes up at 8 o’clock in the morning again.

I certainly have to figure it out for myself, sleeping or taking that short nap in the daytime.

Everything in your life revolves around food. What is your first thought when you wake up in the morning?

(Video) Coming to My Senses : Alice Waters in conversation with Steve Wasserman

What’s it going to be like today? I open the curtain. I fall in love with nature all over again. I go for a walk and it wakes me up to time and place. That sets my day. It is very important thing to have a ritual. Lulu collects wood and starts a fire and has her breakfast by the fire. I have a fireplace in my kitchen, and during the winter that’s what I do. I start a fire first thing.

Waters will be at Politics and Prose Saturday at 3:30 p.m. to talk about her new cookbook. She will be signing books at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market Sunday at 10 a.m.


What was Alice Waters known for? ›

Alice Waters, (born April 28, 1944, Chatham, New Jersey, U.S.), American restaurateur, chef, and food activist who was a leading proponent of the “slow food” movement, which billed itself as the healthy antithesis to fast food.

What impact did Alice Waters have on the culinary world? ›

Waters's search for good food within what was otherwise a “fast food culture” led her to develop a network of local, organic farmers to supply the restaurant, and to become one of the country's most ardent advocates for organic food. “Activism and the restaurant were all of a piece for me,” Waters says.

Why did Alice Waters decide to become a chef? ›

I wanted to do something I was passionate about and open a little restaurant and feed my friends the French food I'd fallen in love with when I went to Paris in the early '60s.

What are some awards that Alice Waters received? ›

Alice Waters was the first woman named “Best Chef in America” in 1992 by the James Beard Foundation. Later she received their Humanitarian Award and in 2009 she was named to the French Legion of Honor, reconnecting her to the source of her life's work.

Who is the famous chef in California? ›

1. Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, Yountville. He may not have his own TV show, but Chef Keller's fame is almost unsurpassed in the culinary world based on the brilliance of his food and the quality of his dining experience.

What is Alice Waters style of cooking? ›

As one of the first chefs to demand responsibly sourced, healthy food, Waters was one of the first in the movement now known as "slow food." "Slow food" has become the term for Waters' views that food should be comprised of ingredients that are seasonal, sustainable and local — a healthy alternative to fast food.

Who is considered as the greatest chef of his time one of his important contribution is the reorganization of the kitchen? ›

Georges-Auguste Escoffier (1847–1935), the greatest chef of his time, is still today revered by chefs and gourmets as the father of twentieth-century cookery. His two main contributions were (1) the simplification of classical cuisine and the classical menu, and the reorganization of the kitchen.

What happens to the food cooked on America's Test Kitchen? ›

We've been composting since February 2019. Leftover food gets put in this community refrigerator and scooped up by hungry employees. This system ensures food gets tracked and recirculated, when possible. So you know which products are worth your money (and we know which ones to stock in the Test Kitchen).

Which famous chef had his or her original kitchen dismantled and reassembled in the National Museum of American History in Washington DC? ›

Julia Child's kitchen on display in the FOOD exhibition. The last three of Julia Child's 1990s television shows were filmed in this kitchen. To turn it into a set, producers removed the table, chairs, and back wall cabinets, and stationed the cameras at one of the doorways.

Why was chef written off? ›

Chef was killed off in the Season Ten debut episode, "The Return of Chef", following controversy with Isaac Hayes, who left the series after the episode, "Trapped in the Closet" aired, due to its portrayal of Scientology. Chef on South Park Studios.

Who was the chef who drank wine while cooking? ›

Keith Floyd

Why did Gordon Ramsay decide to become a chef? ›

His early aptitude was in sports, but an injury changed his course and placed him on a culinary path. He studied hotel management before getting busy in the kitchen full time. By 1993, he was a working chef in Aubergine, and in 1998 launched his own venture, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

What is Alice Waters most famous dish? ›

Alice Waters

She believed in keeping her food 'alive'. Her iconic 'Baked Goat Cheese with Garden Lettuce' has been winning hearts ever since. Though salads with goat cheese and crumbs are somewhat of a cliché today, the one made by her are still a timeless classic.

What did Alice Waters invent? ›

Alice Waters has created the School Lunch Initiative, a national program aiming to make healthy, fresh, and sustainable meals a part of every school day.

Does Chez Panisse have a Michelin star? ›

Michelin awarded the restaurant a one-star rating in its guide to San Francisco Bay Area dining from 2006 through 2009, but the restaurant lost its star in 2010.

Who is the mother of slow food? ›

"Chapter 4. Envirnmentialists and Conservationists – Alice Waters: Mother of the Slow Food Movement".


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