- Paperback: 380 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (26 Feb. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143113089
- ISBN-13: 978-0143113089
- Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.7 x 21.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 850,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Alice Waters & Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution Paperback – 26 Feb 2008
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More About the Author
Alice Waters and Chez Panisse McNamee was selected by Waters to document her story and was given exclusive access to her and her closest friends, to the Chez Panisse archives, and to private collections and memorabilia in order to tell the inside story behind the restaurant that changed American cooking. Full description
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My only quibble is the rather overly respectful view McNamee takes of her. She's more a flesh and blood person than a saint, and the author might take that into account if he continues to plumb this vein of research.
All in all a fairly well researched and well written tome. Perhaps not as evocative as the chapter on Chez Panisse in David Kamp's, United States of Arugula, but a good book to open to any page & foster a laugh, a sigh or an hurrah!
So I was particularly interested in Waters' story. I'm glad I read it, as I feel like I now know things that I ought to know... but I can't say that this is a Wow book. If you have the opportunity to read the book, do; but I don't think you have to drop everything to put it on the top of your Must Read pile.
Yes, Alice Waters created a revolution in the way that Americans, or at least food-conscious Americans, think about food. But she didn't set out to do so as though she was on a lifelong mission... she just wanted to open the sort of one-star Michelin restaurant that she had encountered across France. Through a set of remarkable happenstance (which makes me think simultaneously -- if oddly -- of both Forrest Gump and Connie Willis' Bellwether), Waters was always in the right place at the right time. The right person always showed up in her life, at the time needed. And -- here's a lesson far beyond foodiehood -- she repeatedly took disaster and turned it into opportunity.
For example, after she brought Italian wood fired pizza to the States (oh geez, she started *that* trend, too?), an oven started a huge fire. The restaurant had to be renovated in a hurry, so instead of recreating the small door between kitchen and dining room, she made a big open area... and began a trend towards the "open kitchen." Waters was just solving a problem, but her innovation started a trend.
This is all interesting stuff, and it's interwoven with the events of Waters' own life (such as a procession of lovers, her marriage, motherhood), as well as the strong personalities who have been associated with the restaurant (many of whom have become celebrity chefs or written cookbooks, too). Much of this is from quoted interviews. It's interesting, and the author does a good job (though not dispassionately, as it's clear that the author *likes* Waters). The result, though, is that I felt informed and educated, rather than blown away or inspired or fascinated. That is: I liked this book. I didn't adore it.