“Go ask Alice” is the refrain Grace Slick sings in the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit.” That record, released 1967, spoke to the particular psychedelic moment happening in the Bay Area at that time. But if you’re interested in understanding the modern food movement in the United States, it would still be smart to follow Slick’s edict, in a way. Because Alice Waters has been there since the beginning, when Chez Panisse opened in Berkeley, across the bay from Haight-Ashbury, in 1971.
Forget Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Joel Salatin and Eric Schlosser. Even if your first introduction to a better-tasting, more sustainable approach to food came through one of them, they’re following in Waters’s footsteps, building on the work she started more than 40 years ago at Chez Panisse.
That far-reaching influence and staying power is why Waters is being honored in the first-ever Food, Inc. Awards. And if the movie has had on impact on how you approach food in your life, you could join her—enter for a chance to win.
Speaking at the Telluride Film Festival, Waters says that she’s still learning new things about interacting with and understanding food. “Now I have really come to understand that when we eat fast food, we’re aren’t just eating that food that may be unhealthy for us,” she says, “we’re eating the values that come with the food.”
Conversely, the values of the food prepared at Chez Panisse are far more positive—delicious food geared toward a ecologically sure, ethical, healthy, nourished world. Well, save the time she cooked a shoe for Werner Herzog. But the German director has praise for Water’s too: “She has transformed America’s attitude about food.”