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Alice Louise Waters
Doctor of Humane Letters
Chef Alice Waters’ pioneering leadership in the organic food, local food, sustainable food and Slow Food movements is based upon her beliefs that access to fresh, seasonal food is a universal right, not a privilege, and that our food system should be “good, clean and fair.”
Waters got her start as an activist in the Free Speech and anti-Vietnam War movements at the University of California, Berkeley, while earning a degree in French cultural studies. She also studied in France, where she fell in love with the practice of purchasing and enjoying foods from local farmers’ markets. After learning about Montessori education in London and hospitality in Turkey, she returned to Berkeley and opened Chez Panisse in 1971. The renowned restaurant’s reliance on high-quality organic ingredients from a network of local farmers and artisans has helped to define and popularize “California cuisine.” Chez Panisse will mark the 40th anniversary of its founding this August. Waters opened the nearby Café Fanny in 1984.
In 1996, Waters established The Chez Panisse Foundation, which oversees the Edible Schoolyard program, through which students work in, learn from and eat from an organic garden and “kitchen classroom” at six urban public schools across the U.S. The related School Lunch Initiative strives to incorporate fresh, local, organic produce and other ingredients into school lunches for the Berkeley Unified School District, and Waters calls for similar school lunch reforms nationwide. In 2003, she helped to launch the Yale Sustainable Food Project to make food production an important part of higher education as well. Waters is also vice president of Slow Food International, a 100,000-member nonprofit dedicated to “the pleasure of good food and consequently the responsibility to respect the heritage of food.” She has written numerous cookbooks and other books about food.
Restaurant magazine recognized Waters with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. The following year, she won a Global Environmental Citizen Award and membership in the California Hall of Fame. In 2009, she was inducted into the French Legion of Honor.
Listen to Conversations with Honored Guests, talks by honorary degree recipients.