Slow Food International Vice President Alice Waters will receive France’s highest decoration when she is made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French Consulate General in San Francisco today.
A passionate campaigner for local, sustainable and seasonal food, Waters founded the influential Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California in 1971 and eight years ago became one of Slow Food’s Vice Presidents. For the past 15 years she has devoted much of her time and energy to the Edible Schoolyard – a program which teaches children to grow and cook their own food and take pleasure in conviviality and nutritious, seasonal ingredients. The program now includes more than 1,000 schools across the US.
“Alice has brought to this country a way to think about cuisine,” said Christophe Musitelli, the French cultural attaché in San Francisco, “It’s not only the cooking but the philosophy, the emphasis on organic, the support of Slow Food. For us, she’s a very important figure.”
Waters, whose accolades also include a James Beard Award, a Bon Appetit lifetime achievement award and induction into the California Hall of Fame, spoke of her desire to preserve the knowledge of those who understand food to ensure that this is passed on to the next generation. “The food genes of today’s farmers, growers and chefs are vital and we need to preserve them,” she said.
“What’s going on with food shipped all around the world is deeply wrong. We need to change this to sew our communities back together…I believe we’re finally having an impact across the US. Doors are beginning to open even into the Department of Agriculture. We’re getting support from those with the political astuteness I may lack but I now know is essential in Washington DC and Michelle Obama’s encouragement is invaluable, of course. It’s very exciting.”
Waters will become the first American woman after writer and chef Julia Child to receive a gastronomic Légion d’Honneur.