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Chef Alice Waters Farm to Table Movement in Schools and Restaurants

Updated: Feb 12

Chef Alice Waters Photo Source Wilkipedia

Chef Alice Waters participated in political and social movements in the 1960s when she attended the University of California at Berkley. She participated in the free speech movement and had an internship in France where she learned to appreciate locally grown and sourced food at restaurants in France and the US. She received a degree in French Cultural Studies.

She opened a restaurant in 1971 called Chez Panisse that became a model for the farm to table movement. Using local farmers and ranchers the restaurant sought to find organic farmers growing heirloom fruits, vegetables, and ranchers raising heritage breeds of farm animals.

At first Alice Waters says they struggled to find high quality ingredients for the restaurant. She started with a menu that focused on French cuisine and shifted to California and New American menu. It was hard to find local farmers growing organic vegetables, fruits and raising healthy farm animals.

Due to demand for these products famers began to grow these crops and animals and many suppliers started to produce organic products. Chefs and other food service professionals credited Alice Waters with driving the farm to table movement. She started the movement with her restaurant Chez Painisse.

Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse Kitchen: Source Foodhoe

Chez Panisse in Berkley CA has been in business for over 50 years. It serves a variety of seasonal dishes made from organic vegetables, fruits, meats, poultry, and fish. Their restaurant menus have soups such as summer vegetable soup with basil and Parmesan or tomato gazpacho with fried squash blossoms.

The menu changes often and the salad served might be heirloom tomatoes and roasted peppers with lettuce, fried capers, and basil, or gulf shrimp with heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and mayonnaise. Some of the main entrees that are served to customers are grass fed beef rib eye with potato and vegetable, roasted squab with grapes, roasted mushroom, and onion or roasted duck with crispy potatoes, and vegetables.

The Edible Schoolyard Project

Alice Waters trained to be a Montessori teacher and used some of their methods to run her restaurant, Chez Painisse. She created The Edible Schoolyard Project and designed a program based on her training. After she had a child of her own she became interested in improving the food and gardening programs in elementary, middle schools, and high schools.

She criticized the King Middle School in Berkely CA. Eventually she heard from the principal who was interested in hearing her ideas about how to improve the school. . She suggested a gardening and cooking classrooms. The program came about because of Alice Waters desire to transform the children's experience with food.

Somers Middle School Garden, NY Source: Forest Service Nothern Region: Flicker

The Edible Schoolyard Project involved educators, farmers, families, cooks, gardeners, and artists. In their program children learned to follow a recipe and cook, and grow vegetables and fruits in a garden.

The program at King Middle school started out as a fun and hectic program but became more organized when they hired full a full-time cooking teacher and operations manager and senior garden teacher. They have 10 classes a week with 250 students with 30 students per class.

The King Middle School after a few years developed an organized program that starts with a chef meeting that explains the recipe and all the ingredients. In the garden class students volunteer to help with harvesting, cultivating, composting, and planting. They learn about food history when they made a recipe. This program been established at the middle school for 25 years.

Some of the courses from the Edible School Project are Interdependence In the Garden Ecosystem ,Understanding Organic Connections to Action In the Garden Classroom, Cooking With Curiosity, Know Sow Grow. and Student Engagement Workbook.

In the cooking classes children learn to read a recipe, use a knife safely, how to clean a kitchen, recognize organic ingredients, how to cut vegetables, fruits and herbs, how to use kitchen tools, make salad dressing and sauces, sauté vegetables, baking, and other culinary skills.

Setting Up an Edible School Project In Your School

In South Stockton, CA the schools and community has an Edible Community Farm where students can learn to grow a garden and cook. It is used by local schools and the community. In New York City in 2010 the Northeast Edible Schoolyard was established providing the same courses and training to youth in New York City. There are now 6,200 Edible Schoolyard project worldwide thanks to Alice Waters.

Teacher or educators interested in setting up an Edible Schoolyard Project in their school or community can visit the Edible School Project website to learn more about the program. In 2020 Alice Waters formed a partnership with the University of California at Davis. This center will be a training center for K-12 educators interested in establishing a food and gardening program.

Chez Panisse restaurant uses minimal waste, and all supplies used are composted or reused. They are efficient in using water, energy, and safe materials. Chef Alice Waters has applied the same principles to the Edible School Projects promoting a healthy and sustainable food and agriculture system. Some of the cookbooks she has produced are The Art of Simple Foods, Alice Waters Cooks Up A Revolution, and At Home.

Photo Source: Foodista


Alice Waters, The Farm to Table Movement, and the Edible Schoolyard Project, by Lisa DiCaprio, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, June 2023

Fifty Years Ago, Berkley Restaurant Chez Panisse Launched Farm To Table Movement, by Paul Freedman The Conversation, Smithsonian, July 2021

The Edible Schoolyard Project Berkley CA 2023

Alice Waters Edible Schoolyard Project Changed How Berkley Students Eat, by Kathleen Brown & Tech Alumni, Berkeleyside Org. Nosh Dishing on the East Side Bay, Feb 4, 2020

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