Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chez Panisse

One of the great things about being in San Francisco is the wealth of good food - and last night David Fielding and I sampled the best of the lot - the famous Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Alice Waters (pictured) set this place up back in the 70s, and now it's so famous that you have to reserve your table a month ahead. I first heard about Alice and the restaurant from Peter Sellars, who brought her over to Vienna as part of his New Crowned Hope Festival there. Our waiter last night turned out to know Peter very well - he eats at Chez Panisse whenever he's in the Bay Area (which I guess will include next week). Some of the ideas which Alice brought to that Festival have been very influential on the way we've integrated food and ideas about food into the Origins Festival, particularly with Joy Fenikowski's fantastic Māori food at our opening event.

One of the most crucial aspects of Chez Panisse is the politics of its food. Everything is locally sourced, everything is sustainably grown, everything is organic, everything is fresh. In fact, I could not believe just how fresh my zucchini salad starter tasted. Or how tender the roast lamb was: the menu pointed out the nearby ranch where it was farmed. This approach to food has always been the way with indigenous peoples, and so has the time taken to eat the meal and its central role in social exchange. You feel that in the restaurant too. Chez Panisse is right at the centre of the worldwide Slow Food Movement, and I would like Border Crossings to be there too.

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