The chef, activist, food intellectual, and Slow Food vice president will be awarded her honorary degree at a ceremony on Friday, June 22 in Pollenzo, Italy
On Friday, June 22, 2018, the University of Gastronomic Sciences will present an honorary degree to Alice Waters, one of the most influential figures in world gastronomy and someone who has made a fundamental contribution to the definition of the cultural, ethical, and social value of food and cooking, particularly in regards to spreading the culture of organic, seasonal eating and the promotion of food education in schools.
Since 2012 Alice Waters has been vice president of Slow Food International and she has supported the Slow Food movement for many years. Waters also contributes at a national level with Slow Food USA: During the last edition of Slow Food Nations (which will take place again this year, from July 13 to 15 in Denver), she promoted food education activities.
Waters’s experience in education and her passion for food came together in one of her best-known projects, the Edible Schoolyard, which today has 5,510 gardens in the United States. Waters started by creating a teaching food garden in the courtyard of the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, and then added a kitchen that used the garden’s produce. The Edible Schoolyard became an educational model, successfully replicated in other cities like Los Angeles and New Orleans in 2009. A campaign to promote food quality at a political level took off from there: During the Obama administration, Waters successfully proposed the planting of an organic food garden at the White House. The Edible Schoolyard has been an example for Slow Food at an international level, influencing the creation of a network of more than 500 school gardens in Italy, over 3,000 gardens in the Gardens in Africa project, and in many other contexts, countries, and cultures.
Waters studied French cultural studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where she took part in cultural and student protest movements in the 1960s, including the Free Speech Movement. Political activism has always underpinned her actions, even when she started to become interested in food. After lengthy travels in France, where she learned to recognize and appreciate local, fresh, artisanal food, she returned to California where she worked as a teacher. In 1971 she opened her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, and it quickly became a true pioneering outpost for organic food in the United States.
Waters’s importance goes well beyond her role as chef-owner of Chez Panisse: As well as giving a voice to women’s culinary culture in a world dominated by male chefs, Waters was also one of the first to understand the educational importance of food as a tool for teaching younger generations, particularly in disadvantaged areas. She has brought food as a political issue to the attention of the world’s most powerful people, demonstrating just how much eating is a political act and how food can be a powerful catalyst for social justice and positive change.
In 1992, Waters became the first woman to receive the James Beard Foundation Award for best American chef. Vice president of Slow Food since 2002 and member of the Slow Food Executive Committee, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007, received the French Legion of Honor in 2010, and was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2015.
The University of Gastronomic Sciences has chosen to award Alice Waters with an honorary degree for her varied and invaluable work, which is entirely in harmony with the philosophical and educational model on which the university is based.