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Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution Hardcover – 22 Mar 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; First Edition edition (22 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201153
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201158
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.6 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,422,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Charming. . . . What [McNamee] does beautifully is capture the spirit of the restaurant and its spiritual growth, as well as its place in American culture.
"Los Angeles Times"
McNamee, an erudite journalist, essayist, poet, and literary critic, paints a particularly vivid picture of this enfant terrible of the kitchen.
"San Francisco Chronicle"
A wonderfully entertaining, gossipy glimpse inside a kitchen that continues to surprise and delight.
"The Seattle Times"
A rounded and convincing portrait of a controversial figure in American cooking.
"Saveur"
Careering, chaotic, and ultimately inspiring . . . McNamees clear-eyed assessment avoids the usual platitudes about California cuisine and shows how one individual with an understanding of food can carve out a personal identity and at the same time make culinary history.
"The New York Times Book Review"

aCharming. . . . What [McNamee] does beautifully is capture the spirit of the restaurant and its spiritual growth, as well as its place in American culture.a
"aLos Angeles Times"
aMcNamee, an erudite journalist, essayist, poet, and literary critic, paints a particularly vivid picture of this enfant terrible of the kitchen.a
"aSan Francisco Chronicle"
aA wonderfully entertaining, gossipy glimpse inside a kitchen that continues to surprise and delight.a
"aThe Seattle Times"
aA rounded and convincing portrait of a controversial figure in American cooking.a
"aSaveur"
aCareering, chaotic, and ultimately inspiring . . . McNameeas clear-eyed assessment avoids the usual platitudes about California cuisine and shows how one individual with an understanding of food can carve out a personal identity and at the same time make culinary history.a
"aThe New York Times Book Review"

"Charming. . . . What [McNamee] does beautifully is capture the spirit of the restaurant and its spiritual growth, as well as its place in American culture."
"-Los Angeles Times"
"McNamee, an erudite journalist, essayist, poet, and literary critic, paints a particularly vivid picture of this enfant terrible of the kitchen."
"-San Francisco Chronicle"
"A wonderfully entertaining, gossipy glimpse inside a kitchen that continues to surprise and delight."
"-The Seattle Times"
"A rounded and convincing portrait of a controversial figure in American cooking."
"-Saveur"
"Careering, chaotic, and ultimately inspiring . . . McNamee's clear-eyed assessment avoids the usual platitudes about California cuisine and shows how one individual with an understanding of food can carve out a personal identity and at the same time make culinary history."
"-The New York Times Book Review" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Thomas McNamee is the author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone, A Story of Deep Delight, Nature First, and The Grizzly Bear.

R.W. "Johnny" Apple, Jr. worked for "The New York Times" for forty years, serving at various times as Associate Editor, Chief Correspondent, Chief Washington Correspondent, and Washington Bureau Chief. He began writing food articles for the "Times" in the late 1970s, when reporting from London. His writing also appeared in a variety of magazines, including "The" "Atlantic Monthly", "Esquire", "GQ", "Saveur", "Travel & Leisure", "Departures", "Gourmet", "Town & Country" and "National Geographic Traveler". He lived with his wife Betsey in Washington, D.C, where he died in 2006. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I am very interested in Alice Waters' and Chez Panisse's philosophy about food. The author has done thorough research on the book, albeit some parts of the book seemed repetitive, perhaps owing to the repetitive occurences within the development of the restaurant itself. Overall, if you are interested in the restaurant business and in fresh food/slow food movement, read it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just finished reading Thomas McNamee's portrait of Alice Waters & Chez Panisse - an incredible story of beauty, failure, vision & success.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Quite liked this book -very different to read what amounted to the biography of a restaurant, it caught the atmosphere of San Francisco
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars 48 reviews
65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for Foodies only 28 Mar. 2007
By Miles Chapin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished this book and I have to say that it had more in it than I had bargained for when I first picked it up. I knew I wanted to read the story about America's most famous, most influential, and arguably most "important" restaurant, but I was delightfully surprised by two other things about it. First thing, I've never read a story laid out quite like this - the narrative voices (it's kind of an oral history of Chez Panisse but that doesn't really do this book justice) overlap, blend, and harmonize with each other, and that of the writer Thomas McNamee, in a seamless fashion which sweeps the reader along in a way I've never before experienced. Second, I had no real understanding of the value and values of the work of Alice Waters & crew, and how important they are in 21st century America. To take this restaurant from its beginnings as a kind of Mickey-and-Judy "Let's put on a Restaurant" venture all the way through the culinary flowering of our nation in the 80's, 90's and 00's, and to be a leader of the pack the entire time, is quite a feat for Alice. And to end up with her labors on behalf of Slow Food, environmental education, and responsible sustainability... well it's a path I wish more people would travel. Bravo and toques off to Alice Waters, all the staff who have worked at Chez Panisse over the years, and mostly to Thomas McNamee and his publisher who bring us this story which is at once a delight to read and a good message for us to hear.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Saint Alice - hagiography of a restaurateur 25 Sept. 2007
By Gregory A. Pearson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
McNamee's book is an excellent read, no doubt. The story flows, the characters build, the plot thickens. I've been fortunate enough to often eat at Chez Panisse, particularly in its first 5 years, and had seen more than a few of the scenes the author, or one of his correspondents, describes. Alice's determination and pursuit of the best possible ingredient have always been remarkable. She's a Taurus, isn't she!

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!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific bok on many levels 20 May 2007
By PeterB - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As interesting as this book is about the founding and growth of Chez Panisse and about Alice Water's fascinating life, it's also about the creation and growth of California cuisine and the importance of the local farmer and sustainable ingredients. It's the antidote to Fast food Nation and provides some hope for healthier eating and the value of the small farmer. A terrific read that's wonderfully written.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read! 29 April 2007
By T. Gilbert - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down. I enjoyed the way it was written, and especially the little tidbits of cooking info of some classic Chez Panisse recipes. It was well-researched and well-written and I enjoyed every minute of it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting overview of the not-so-intentional leader of California Cuisine 8 Oct. 2007
By Esther Schindler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Any foodie worth her sun-dried sea salt knows the name Alice Waters. Waters was the person who spearheaded the move to fresh, local produce that's grown sustainability and locally, and Chez Panisse is probably the most famous restaurant that most of us have never visited.

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.
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