You can't write about Chez Pannise without mentioning Alice Waters. They are one in the same. She pioneered California cooking just as Ferran Adrià did for modernist cuisine. Chez Pannise has been around since 1971 and has sustained itself by creating an ecosystem of locally, organically and sustainably grown food to the Berkeley community. The upstairs cafe is one of the best places to get a reasonably priced lunch with exceptional food. Downstairs, wow, is simply spectacular.
Over the last twenty years, I've gone back again and again. Why? It's not because of the technical proficiency of Alice Waters and her team. It's because of their commitment to organic locally grown food. It is also her commitment to the Edible Schoolyard Project. I know the dollars I spend there, eventually go to the students at Martin Luther King Middle School. The gardens and kitchens teach kids (and adults), the value of fresh food, the life skills that enable sustainable living and the natural world AND at the same time feeding students healthy food.
Tremendous waste exists in our current the food system. The only way to eliminate it to engage the community on what goes into making the food you eat. The Natural Resource Defence council estimates up to 40 percent of the food in the US is never eaten. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates 94 percent of the food we throw away ends up in a landfill or is incinerated. To give you a sense of volume, in 2015, 37.6 million tons of food was wasted. Imagine all the diesel fuel needed to haul that away waste? Think of the air pollution and public health impact. What we eat and how we dispose of it has a cascade effect on our bodies and the environment that we often do not consider.
So when I look at what is on my plate, whether it is Chez Pannise or a slice at Pettee's, I am always reminded by what my father told me: "Blood sweat and tears by a whole bunch of people, beyond your mother and myself, went into that meal. Appreciate it!"
Chez Panisse is located at
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, California 94709
As a strategic consultant, I manage chaos for a living. So travel is easy for me. Heh. I travel to understand people and culture more deeply than a newspaper or tv show could ever tell me. I break bread to build bridges across political and social boundaries. Travel inspires me, teaches me and humbles me such that I appreciate my part of the world more deeply.