Online Extra: Alice Waters' Organic Ways

The famed chef talks about the health crisis in the U.S., how to teach children good eating habits, and why she doesn't own more restaurants

I caught up with Alice Waters by cell phone about a month ago. She was at the airport heading for several weeks in Europe. She had a number of events planned, including a planning meeting for the Peter Sellars Mozart Festival (the director, not the late comedian) in November/December. Sellars wants to address social and political issues at the festival, including such issues as sustainable food. Waters is in charge of the opening dinner. She had also planned on visiting the American Academy in Rome. The artistic center situated on Rome's highest hill is transforming its cafeteria into one that reflects the principles of buying locally and seasonally. Food culture will become part of the academy's experience. No matter what the topic, though, her passion for food and culture was infectious.

What does the "delicious revolution" mean to you? It's adhering to these principles: Getting people to make the right decisions about big issues relating to our environment. Eating food that's delicious. Buying at the farmers market and buying what is in season. Supporting farmers who take care of the land. Slow-food values rather than fast-food values. Taking the time to appreciate family and friends. Appreciating the change of seasons.

Do you feel that people are far more aware of organic food today? I feel that there is an awareness that is important. But it's just the first baby step, learning about learning what food can do to our lives. This is not a new philosophy about food. This has been around since the beginning of time. We're just giving it new life. We are talking about a set of values we believe in. One of these for me has to do with community—connecting to people who live there.

Many famous American chefs own several restaurants. Why don't you? I know what people in Berkeley want. I don't think I could do that with a number of places. It's important for a restaurant to have the feeling and attention of the owner. That's impossible to do with a huge number of restaurants.

You're also reaching out to children, such as with the school project at the Martin Luther King Jr. middle school? We're trying to instill these values. We're exposing children to a new relationship with food, and connect them to culture. In so many schools we put food in the fast-food category. That's what our kids are learning. It's destroying culture. Food is a way to make kids feel that they are being taken care of and cared for.

Do you think this model will spread outside Berkeley? I'm hopeful. I compare it to putting physical education back in the schools 40 years ago. It's a subject you now can get credit for. I'd like the same thing to happen with food…We're having a health crisis and an environmental crisis…We need to teach children about food. We need to take food seriously, get the teachers to teach the subject, and build them places where children can eat in a civilized way…this is something that I think we can be successful. There is an edible schoolyard project in New Orleans that we are currently working on. It's at the Green School. It was flooded terribly. Impoverished. The principal made room for it to happen.

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