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Founder, Chez Panisse Foundation
Biographical Background: Alice Waters was born on April 28,1944, in Chatham, New Jersey. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 with a degree in French Cultural Studies, and trained at the Montessori School in London before spending a seminal year traveling in France. She has a daughter, Fanny, who was born in 1983.
Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971, serving a single fixed-price menu that changes daily. The set menu format remains at the heart of Waters's philosophy of serving only the highest quality products, only when they are in season. Over the course of three decades, Chez Panisse has developed a network of mostly local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures Chez Panisse a steady supply of pure and fresh ingredients.
The upstairs café at Chez Panisse opened in 1980 with an open kitchen, a wood-burning pizza oven, and an à la carte menu. Café Fanny, a stand-up café that serves breakfast and lunch, was opened a few miles away in 1984.
Waters is actively involved in the development of an edible garden and kitchen classroom at Berkeley's Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School. This project, known as the Edible Schoolyard, involves children directly in planting, gardening, harvesting, cooking, and eating, with the goal of illuminating the relationship of food to life and teaching children respect for one another and for the planet. It is intended to play both a significant role in the school's curriculum, while also resuscitating its school lunch program. The Edible Schoolyard is conceived as a pilot project that will serve as a model for schools across the country.
Waters is a strong advocate for farmer's markets and for sound and sustainable agriculture. In 1996, in celebration of the restaurant's twenty-fifth anniversary, she created the Chez Panisse Foundation to help underwrite cultural and educational programs such as the one at the Edible Schoolyard that demonstrate the transformative power of growing, cooking, and sharing food.
Waters is also the Vice President of Slow Food International, a non-profit organization that promotes and celebrates local, artisanal food traditions threatened by fast food and a faster pace of life.
Return to 2004 Commencement press release
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