Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

Rate this book
The long-awaited memoir from cultural icon and culinary standard bearer Alice Waters recalls the circuitous road and tumultuous times leading to the opening of what is arguably America's most influential restaurant.

When Alice Waters opened the doors of her "little French restaurant" in Berkeley, California in 1971 at the age of 27, no one ever anticipated the indelible mark it would leave on the culinary landscape—Alice least of all. Fueled in equal parts by naiveté and a relentless pursuit of beauty and pure flavor, she turned her passion project into an iconic institution that redefined American cuisine for generations of chefs and food lovers.
In Coming to My Senses Alice retraces the events that led her to 1517 Shattuck Avenue and the tumultuous times that emboldened her to find her own voice as a cook when the prevailing food culture was embracing convenience and uniformity. Moving from a repressive suburban upbringing to Berkeley in 1964 at the height of the Free Speech Movement and campus unrest, she was drawn into a bohemian circle of charismatic figures whose views on design, politics, film, and food would ultimately inform the unique culture on which Chez Panisse was founded.
Dotted with stories, recipes, photographs, and letters, Coming to My Senses is at once deeply personal and modestly understated, a quietly revealing look at one woman's evolution from a rebellious yet impressionable follower to a respected activist who effects social and political change on a global level through the common bond of food.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published September 5, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Alice Waters

105 books342 followers
Alice Waters is a chef, author, food activist, and the founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California. She has been a champion of local sustainable agriculture for over four decades. In 1995 she founded the Edible Schoolyard Project, which advocates for a free school lunch for all children and a sustainable food curriculum in every public school.

She has been Vice President of Slow Food International since 2002. She conceived and helped create the Yale Sustainable Food Project in 2003, and the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome in 2007.

Her honors include election as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007; the Harvard Medical School’s Global Environmental Citizen Award, which she shared with Kofi Annan in 2008; and her induction into the French Legion of Honor in 2010. In 2015 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama, proving that eating is a political act, and that the table is a powerful means to social justice and positive change.

Alice is the author of fifteen books, including New York Times bestsellers The Art of Simple Food I & II and The Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
732 (17%)
4 stars
1,280 (30%)
3 stars
1,401 (33%)
2 stars
577 (13%)
1 star
234 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 434 reviews
Profile Image for Ally.
436 reviews13 followers
September 29, 2017
I desperately wanted to like this book. I'm a huge fan of Alice Waters, her restaurant Chez Panisse, and the work that she has done with transforming the food culture in American. When the author was growing up, her family ate mostly convenience foods - mashed potato flakes, boxed cake mixes, etc. It wasn't until she spent a year abroad in France that she began to understand about flavor, freshness, and what it means to be thoughtful and intentional about your eating. She wanted to bring that experience back to her life in the US, so she opened her little french restaurant, Chez Panisse in 1971.

From the very beginning, there was a set menu that all diners were given. It changed daily (nowadays, weekly), based on what protein, fruits, and veggies are freshest. Because they tend to have more flavor and nutrients, the priority is for locally and organically-grown foodstuffs, shunning the factory-farms. Chez Panisse was really the beginning of the farm-to-table concept of dining, thus playing a massive role in revolutionizing the way Americans eat.

I, too, grew up with a family of non-cooks, so there were lots of "instant" and "pre-made" foods in the pantry. It wasn't until I was living on my own, after college, that I really paid attention to what I was eating and where it came from. This inspired me to learn to cook, and through which I discovered the Chez Panisse cookbooks. I've always identified with Alice, because of our similar food history, and considered her one of my greatest inspirations. I have first editions of all of her cookbooks (a few are signed), the restaurant's 40th anniversary commemorative book, a publishsed collection of beautifully designed menus, and the biography ALICE WATERS AND CHEZ PANISSE by Thomas McNamee. You could say that I'm a bit obsessed, which is why I was so excited to learn that she was releasing her memoir, COMING TO MY SENSES: THE MAKING OF A COUNTERCULTURE COOK. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.

The story begins with Alice's parents, giving insight into their families, personalities, and relationships. Alice goes on to share a few pictures, anecdotes, and personal opinions about the culture and politics at play in her upbringing, as well as her relationship with her sisters, and memorable experiences that she had as a child. You follow her as she comes-of-age, explores romantic relationships, gets involved in politics and activism, and has her great food awakening - a movement that becomes a driving force in every aspect of her life. Much of this was covered in Thomas McNamee's book, but it was interesting to hear about it from Alice directly.

In fact, one of the most interesting parts of the book was not so much the material, but the way it was written. The authorial voice comes across exactly as if you sat with Alice for an afternoon and she told you her life story. Alice is famously a very passionate and opinionated person, idealistic, and a consummate snob - all of those qualities come through loud and clear in her writing. This isn't a negative comment on the book, it just speaks to the authenticity of the author. It may be off-putting to some readers, but I didn't mind it.

What really detracted from my enjoyment of COMING TO MY SENSES were its confusing organizational structure and its surface-level writing. I felt as though this book could have benefited greatly from a thesis statement. What exactly was the author trying to convey - her life story? The story of her restaurant's inception? Everything felt a bit muddled. In fact, the amount of odd details that the author shares, such as about the Berkeley clothing store owner who dressed Alice in the early days of Chez Panisse and then went on to become a Hollywood costume designer, were confusing and extraneous. It was sometimes difficult to surmise exactly the point that the author was trying to make.

The book is marketed as a memoir, which I found to be incredibly misleading. When I sit down with a memoir, I expect to be drawn into certain key moments from the author's life, and follow her through her reflections on those moments, analyzing and making deep meaning of them and how they have impacted her. What you find on the pages of COMING TO MY SENSES is an autobiography, and a surface-level one at that. There are brief moments where Alice goes into detail and analysis about things that are happening, but the vast majority of the book is "telling" the reader about her life rather than "showing"...almost a play-by-play but without any commentary. For someone who is so sophisticated about so many things, I was truly disappointed by the simplistic way in which she wrote this book.

For those who are interested in Alice Waters and her food awakening, there is a lot to like about her most recent book. You'll learn about her early years in New Jersey and Michigan, her involvement in campus protests and political activism in the San Francisco area, and her formative experiences with food and cooking. Her personality comes through clearly in her authorial voice, but there is a disconnect between that voice and the actual content of the book. To find a way to meld that voice and personality with some more focused, detailed, and in-depth reflections would be to make COMING TO MY SENSES a much more powerful and engaging story.
226 reviews6 followers
September 13, 2017
I don't know why I even requested this book from the library. Generally, I'm interested in people who become chefs and what brought them to that vocation. Years ago, I read many books on fascinating chefs that were well written. This book is not one of them. Alice Waters should just stick to cooking and forget about penning a memoir. I could only get through half before I finally gave up. I found the writing to be juvenile, boring, with tons of name-dropping. It seemed very stilted to me. I couldn't care less about what she did, who her friends were, the people she met along the way, etc. This is definitely not a good piece of literature.
Profile Image for Brandon Gaukel.
146 reviews6 followers
October 10, 2017
I love this woman. This book is exactly what I want to read this week, I started it on a flight from Hawaii and just finished two days later. I swear by her cookbooks, she has changed my life and I got to meet her this year on the flight back from New York City. A GEM.

Way to go Alice waters, small groups change the world always.
Profile Image for Melissa.
23 reviews
October 4, 2017
Very fascinating but it takes place from her birth to Chez Panisse opening in 1971 (some mentions take place past this time). But it doesn't cover the most interesting parts of her life: running a restaurant for 45 years, her marriage, her daughter, Edible Schoolyard. I was disappointed as the last disc came to a close and this was all glossed over. Maybe one day there will be a part 2.
31 reviews
October 4, 2017
I realllyyyyy wanted this book to be good, because Alice is one of the most import Bay Area icons. The book left me constantly wanting to know more. She glosses over key moments in her life and doesn't really give herself enough credit for what she did in the Bay. It could have used a strong editor or ghost writer.
Profile Image for Aria.
482 reviews41 followers
September 26, 2017
---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ----

Sadly, I didn't get through the book. I did my best for 3 or 4 days, and finally conceded that I just wasn't going to make it. I'm at somewhat of a loss as to explain why, though. I kept finding myself growing tired, or catching myself dazed out. I know I was not at all a fan of the way the timelines would jump from her youth to more recent events. It seemed to prevent any coherent tale from forming.

I thought I would like this book, as I had expected that I'd relate to the author. I'm not sure why I didn't. I think nothing ever became "real," as I was reading. The story was never made to be present in my mind; I just wasn't drawn in. I don't even know how to make recommendations for how to fix it. It seems like she had a nice family, and some of the bits related about her youth seemed like they had potential to be interesting if.............something. I don't know. There was no life to what I was able to push myself through. I'm honestly surprised this came off as it did, blander than boiled chicken between white bread. I can't recommend it as is. Perhaps a complete re-write by someone that could inject some flavor into it would salvage the project. Surely there's a story in there worth the paper, if it could be brought to life. I think there must be, but unfortunately it didn't appear in this version.

As I couldn't finish the sucker, I can't say that I liked it, or that it was even okay. It wasn't. I didn't hate it. I had literally no response to it whatsoever...like a flat-line reading experience. I just had to call it and move on, and that's not the sign of good writing, so I'm pretty much left with no other option but a 1 star response. I hate that it's this way, but anything else would be dishonest, so, sadly, here we are. I just want to say once more how surprised I am that this book didn't work. It sounded like it would be so enjoyable. I guess these things are going to happen sometimes. *sigh*

Profile Image for Kathy Cowie.
847 reviews21 followers
November 20, 2017
3.5 stars
I decided to listen to this book because it is read by Alice Waters. While she cannot really compare to the many wonderful, professionally-trained actors who read audiobooks, I still enjoyed hearing the story from her. She is in her 70s now, I think, and there is something mind-blowing about hearing someone that age talk about how she payed for the building that is now Chez Panisse with the help of parents, friends, and some "un-named dope dealers." How she came to be such a culinary legend is a truly roundabout and fascinating story, and you should listen to it just to hear the names of all the people who dropped by before they were famous. Also, in perhaps the biggest understatement of the book, she admits turning down a dinner with her friend John Kott while she was living in London - he was in town to interview John Lennon (in 1967 or so), and she was too overwhelmed by the thought to join them for dinner. She admits, "in hindsight, that was probably a mistake." Her love of food is contagious, and her rapture about garlic and fresh-picked lettuce made my mouth water — has your mouth ever watered for the taste of lettuce? That's impressive. Her kitchen is a legendary rite of passage for some of the biggest names in the Slow Food movement. If you are any kind of cook or foodie, you will love this story.
Profile Image for Jessica.
225 reviews25 followers
February 26, 2018
I love Alice Waters and was extremely excited about this book, enough so that I grabbed an ARC months before it came out. And then...it took me forever to finish it. Unfortunately, much of the book was disappointing. The beginning was slow and mostly involved her family and upbringing. The writing felt juvenile and disjointed, and, sorry to say, boring. It finally picked up when she got to Berkeley and began talking more about food which is what I wanted to hear about in the first place. There was a general timeline but still little vignettes were included that threw that off and felt unnecessary or misplaced or just plain odd. I did learn more about Alice, her passion for food, her inspiration and style, some of the stories were amusing, and it did evoke some lovely memories of Berkeley and remind me of why I enjoy seasonal, farm-fresh, local foods, so all was not lost.
Profile Image for Sally Anne.
563 reviews27 followers
June 14, 2019
Wow. With no disrespect to Ms. Waters, she is no audio book reader. Her publishers did her a disservice by having her read. This book is wondrously dull. I listened i some low level amazement, as if looking at a wreck one would not expect. Ms. Waters lack of insight about her experiences, her friends, her entire trajectory is numbing in its lack of depth, nuance, and, hell, even interest. As a narrator, SHE doesn't even sound interesting or engaged.

All over the map.

Skip it.
Profile Image for Daniel Palevski.
139 reviews4 followers
January 23, 2018
Simple and honest, I was very taken with Waters' clear and concise writing style as well as her willingness to be open and revealing. Often she criticizes herself has being naive, but this is the part of her I felt most pulled into.

I ate at Chez Panisse when I was in Berkeley about a month ago. I ate at the cafe and wasn't entirely blown away with the experience, but it was definitely a nice meal and a nice place to share a meal with friends. After reading the book, I can look back and say the lighting particularly helped create a cozy ambiance.

This book tells her life story and how she became a chef. Ultimately, she became considered one of the founders of new American cooking and the farm-to-table movement, but this book doesn't delve into those labels or classifications. In fact, it's almost as Waters tries to humble herself and avoid those accolades.

Instead, she focuses more on herself as a person and how she developed into her worldview. Some of the most interesting parts of the book are where she explains what she's like to see more of in society and the type of life she'd like to lead. Going to college in Berkeley, she became somewhat political, and these statements about our country and politics I thought resonated very well with me and what are country is facing today:

Pg. 93 - from the beach to Berkeley 

"When the dominant culture behaves immorally, the way the United States was about the war, civil rights, and freedom of public expression, you begin to feel betrayed."

"Somewhere along the way, in our country's rush to industrialization and consumerism, it began to feel like America had lost its humanity."
314 reviews1 follower
September 24, 2017
Well it starts with the pitiful photo on the front and doesn't progress much beyond that. Alice is a remarkable woman especially if you watch the PBS special on American Masters but I didn't get it from the book. She skips around and does tell all in regard to drugs and sex but it is all her early life that could have been covered in a couple chapters. There is nothing about her life after the restaurant got successful, her daughter and the edible school yard. These latter things I would have been more interested to read about than childhood. She also couldn't remember things at several points and that is either saying more about her age or her intellect. I have been to her restaurant twice, although only the cafe as the cost and not being able to choose what you eat prohibited the dinners downstairs. She influenced a lot of people and I like the concept of the edible school yard. I would have liked to read more about that. I can understand trying to protect her daughter by not covering those years and yet that also might have been interesting how she juggled motherhood and her by then successful career. I have been reading Charles Shere's blog "Eating Every Day" for several years. He is well into his 80's and whenever they are in Berkeley they eat at Chez Panisse. Now I realize they were/are original owners. I knew his "cook" had been a pastry chef there but didn't quite realize about the ownership. Alice probably should have let someone write a biography rather than trying to do it herself. She let others be the cook right from the start.
Profile Image for Onceinabluemoon.
2,560 reviews59 followers
February 12, 2018
4.5 rounding up because I'm so disappointed to see so many negative reviews, I want this to be extra positive. I totally enjoyed this book, although I have never dined at the restaurant I am very aware of it from my youth, as a native Californian it's been a long time institution. I didn't know she was so "counter culture", I enjoyed reliving the era with her. I listened with whispersynch and I always enjoy when the authors read their own works. I was completely entertained, never found it boring as so many have mentioned, for me it's always interesting to hear one's life, I found her quite candid from her youth on. How wonderful she found her calling young and has raised this child for 45 years plus and growing.
Profile Image for Sheri Schlondrop.
15 reviews2 followers
February 23, 2020
So disappointed...I didn't know what to expect with this book - didn't read any reviews prior to buying it. Her writing style is... did she have an editor? I love the concept of her restaurant and would one day love to dine there, but she should have had someone else right her biography.
20 reviews
February 18, 2018
loved! Book ends at the opening of her cafe Chez Panisse. Participated in Free Speech Movement, Berkeley while she tried to make her cafe “perfect”. Lots of picture, very enjoyable.
Profile Image for Brian Heid.
78 reviews2 followers
April 10, 2023
2.5 stars. I had never heard of Alice Waters until a friend selected this book for our book club, and while I was pretty engaged at first (particularly learning about her work as a chef and her early upbringing that directly informed that work) I found myself drifting as the book progressed. In the first place her narrative style has no (apparent) rhyme or reason: she jumps around the years in no discernible order, which often renders the narrative disjointed and clunky. Waters also never lets an anecdote pass by without name dropping someone famous, or someone that you should apparently know, and her attitude reeks of pretension. While I love learning about people who’ve done exciting and interesting things with their lives, I don’t have patience for someone who seems more interested in letting you know that she’s met more famous people than you can ever imagine.
Profile Image for Audrey Brown.
41 reviews8 followers
January 31, 2022
“Beauty is the language of care.” Charming and awe-inspiring. Alice Waters is indeed a beloved Berkeleyan and someone I would very much enjoy discussing the intricacies of life with over a home-cooked meal.
Profile Image for Anne.
956 reviews9 followers
October 27, 2017
Book club strikes again! I've never been a foodie nor have I ever heard of Chez Panisse (apparently I missed that revolution -the only Alice's restaurant of legend I'm familiar with is Arlo Guthrie's) so, to put it plainly, I was completely uninterested and uninformed going into this. Further, from the complete lack of introduction, I think the author and the publisher assumed every one of us reading this book was aware of the illustrious history of the restaurant. Well, let me be the first to say, I wish I'd read the Wikipedia entry first.

Fortunately, I had primed myself (accidentally) by starting an even worse, even more scattered biography (I am not Spock) a few days prior. Not much else could make a slog through the middle-class upbringing of a (to me) random personage of completely bland, but still rather privileged upbringing, bearable. I'm sure I have much to thank for Alice's success (I love a good, bitter salad but I'm 1000% sure that's due to my friend Debbie [maybe Debbie was influenced by Alice Waters, for all I know] not Alice), but still her whole existence seems too mundane to warrant a 300-page book club read.

And while I do appreciate Alice's positive attitude (nary a negative word was uttered against anybody), by the end of the book I felt like I was at a funeral where the deceased was well on the way to being canonized. In other words, zzzzzzzzzzzz. Wish I'd still been awake to appreciate the details and excitement (hers, not mine) of the start of such a legendary (to many people who are not me) business.

3 stars - one whole extra star for being a fast read
480 reviews6 followers
April 19, 2018
My book club has chosen this title for our June meeting. We plan to visit Chez Panisse, the famous restaurant Alice Waters founded in Berkeley in 1971. This memoir provides the back story of how Chez Panisse came to be. A young woman from New Jersey went to France on a year abroad, became a Francophile, and wanted to recreate the flavors she experienced as an impressionable student. She returned to the States, and went to UC Berkeley in the early 1960's, just as the Beat movement was waning, the Free Speech Movement was launched, and various students, artists, musicians and political personalities provided a rich atmosphere of incubation and support for her idea. As I read her account of putting her dream into practice in fits and starts, I often felt impatient with her self absorption. But by the end I came to see that it is that it is this kind of obsessive focus on a vision or idea that is needed to make a dream real. Alice Waters wanted to make a restaurant where she could entertain her friends. She succeeded not only in that goal, but in influencing American cuisine and helping to build a community for sustainable local food that became renowned beyond the borders of the United States. She is one of three iconic Californian women, who loved the foods of France, and honored that legacy by bringing them home and adapting them to America. They include: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child and Alice Waters. And in June I look forward to tasting what Chez Panisse will offer as the prix fixe menu of the day.
Profile Image for Margaret.
53 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2018
I enjoyed this book but towards the end I feel like the narrative lost steam and became repetitive. I enjoyed the beginning and middle where we learn about Alice’s childhood. Learning about her self discovery in college and her love of French food drew me in. This book also made me appreciate how different things are for women these days. There is still sexism but Alice opened a restaurant during a time when female business owners were an anomaly. Alice definitely communicates a passion for food as an experience and not just sustenance that is alluring and contagious to the reader.

A lot of her recounting of her past relationships and interactions with key players in the counter culture movement seemed almost idealized. Perhaps I’m cynical but she seemed to retain almost a naïveté about how “great it all was.”

If you are a lover of a great meal that is accompanied with the perfect wine while discussing art and film, Alice’s book will definitely touch your soul.
Profile Image for Helen.
438 reviews9 followers
December 7, 2017
I've only even been familiar with the reputation of Chez Panisse and the reverent tones by which American food journalists wrote about Alice Waters. I've yet to had the chance to visit her restaurant - I'd love to go one day - so this book was an incredible insight into not just the conception of the restaurant, but the life of Waters up until its opening.

Waters was so much more lively and funny and honest and self-deprecating than I thought. It's an offering, I suspect, that's just as heartfelt and consciously uncomplicated as her food.
Profile Image for Katy.
692 reviews12 followers
April 10, 2018
This is such a lovely book. Waters is a fascinating woman and I loved hearing about her life. The story is not exactly linear but it is a rich and lively one. I want to visit Chez Panisse one day! Also a wonderful addition to my thoughts of the slow food movement.
Profile Image for Hope Sherman.
366 reviews
May 4, 2018
For anyone who loves food, art and film, loves 60's history and loves travel - especially to France, this will be enjoyable. Having been fortunate enough to have dined at Chez Panisse made this an especially delicious read!
Profile Image for Karyl.
1,718 reviews119 followers
September 28, 2018
I've known Alice Waters's name for a while, but I'm not even sure why. Perhaps it's because I'm interested in cooking, but for whatever reason, this is the first I'm really getting to know her. I find it fascinating that she grew up in a family that subsisted mostly on convenience foods, and then after no formal training at all, Waters manages to open an extremely successful restaurant in the Bay area.

I too never learned to cook until I was an adult. I can remember two things I cooked before I left my parents' home -- one year I felt no one had remembered it was my mom's birthday, and so I decided to make her a cake. I looked in our pantry and I looked in her cookbooks (she had cookbooks even though she rarely cooked), and the only thing I had all the ingredients for, since I couldn't go shopping on my own, was a spice cake with a powdered sugar glaze. I still dream about that cake! It was so good!! The other thing I remember making is breaded chicken cutlets out of a Weight Watchers cookbook. That wasn't nearly as tasty.

After my husband and I were married, we moved to Washington state, where he was immediately deployed to his ship in the Middle East. That left me alone for most of the year, and it was then that I really started to take an interest in cooking. Somehow it comes easily for me, and I just assumed it did for everyone else (I've since learned that isn't so). My husband left behind a wife who was content with Hamburger Helper and came home to a wife that much preferred to cook completely from scratch. The poor guy.

So reading about Waters's childhood was quite interesting, especially as it regards her sisters. I too grew up with siblings I wasn't super close to, and now we've all kind of gone our own way, but that doesn't lessen the love we have for one another. And Waters came of age in my favorite time period in recent history, a time in which you really felt you could change the world. It was so much fun to tag along on her trips to Europe and her year abroad.

But this book does leave a person wanting. I didn't care about her name-dropping (she apparently turned down an invitation to join a friend and John Lennon for dinner), and I would have liked to have more detail on running the restaurant. I love the idea of cooking just one meal for everyone, but how did that play out? How did people respond initially? Instead she ends the book just after opening night.

Perhaps someone who knows more about Alice Waters will enjoy this book more. I read in another review that there is a PBS special on her, and I'll have to look that up. This book just didn't really do it for me.
Profile Image for cara cara.
34 reviews
February 1, 2023
this one is a real special one. it took a while for me to get into it, but once i did, it really took over my heart.

what resonates for me most is alice waters appreciation of beauty. the feeling that you get when you witness something beautiful. the feeling you get when you look out from a sun drenched porch, the feeling you get when you taste something so delicious, the feeling you get when you see your loved ones talking over a precious meal. it's that feeling of beauty. it's the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that was is beautiful to me might be different than you. if something is loved and taken care of, its beautiful.

one thing that i value the most about my mother is her attention to beauty- her home is filled with gorgeous antiques and vintage items, the lighting is so well crafted, her kitchen is just --ugh! my mom knows how to adorn herself well, she had and still has such a great taste for music, she makes the most delicious food. she values beauty. it seeps out of her. and i can wholly thank her for instilling the love of beauty in my life.

this book touched my heart, because it awakened my own values about connecting with this world. it helped remind me what brings me meaning. it helped me think about my existence in such an optimistic and inspired way!

the book was not well written per-sue, and perhaps the organization was kind of off, but i dont really care! beauty truly seeped from the pages.

Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,223 reviews209 followers
December 14, 2017
You may be familiar with the name Alice Waters or her restaurant, Chez Panisse, or even heard references to the Edible Schoolyard Project here and there. Now comes the story of Waters: her various career paths, travels, relationships, etc., all leading to her life's major passion project – a restaurant with a nouveau idea at the time of a fixed daily menu option (influenced by her travels in France). Local ingredients, a place for people of the "counterculture" to gather, eat, debate, and just really connect with food. I didn't know much about Waters before reading this, but came to discover what a life she's lead, including the colorful characters she's known. And it's now on my life's bucket list to travel to Berkeley and eat at Chez Panisse. Who's in?! - Sara Z.
140 reviews
September 10, 2021
I had never heard of Alice Waters or Chez Panisse before, but I quite enjoyed this book. One of, if not the, originator of the slow food movement in the US, Alice Waters made an indelible impression on the American culinary scene. In this book Waters explores her path right up until opening night at Chez Panisse, including her college and adulthood in Berkeley during the 1960s/70s, several periods living in France, and friendships with many movers and shakers in the countercultural scene of the time. One inspiring takeaway was how many foundational people, Alice included, had little to no formal kitchen training. The creative process involved in making a successful restaurant, beyond just the food but also the decor, calligraphy, even lighting choices, was also enlightening for me.
Only minor con for the memoir I'd say was her persistent rose-colored perspective on her generation and the overall time-period. I don't want to call it naivety, and perhaps I am more critical/pessimistic about that generation given the current state of the world, but I would have welcomed a little more realistic backward analysis (fully recognizing that this memoir, like most, is meant to highlight the positives).
Profile Image for Glenda.
151 reviews12 followers
June 28, 2017
I received this book as a goodreads giveaway.

Before reading Alice Waters' memoir, I will honestly say I knew very little about this acclaimed restaurateur other than Chez Panisse was ground-breaking and she has been a strong believer of farm-to-table long before it was chic. I loved reading about her adventures in Paris, and how her chance meetings with various artistes and love of fresh French food led her to taking the plunge to opening a restaurant in a very difficult environment. At times she was repetitive and certain name drops were completely unnecessary, but overall an entertaining read.
122 reviews1 follower
April 25, 2018
A fascinating memoir by a woman who has been at the forefront of eating local for over forty years. She opened her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in 1971 with no experience other than cooking for friends. She never trained as a chef but she learned to appreciate good food during a formative year in France. She was steeped in the counterculture in Berkeley and her memoir is filled with well known names from those turbulent times. Yet she comes across as likeable and charming, free spirited but practical, a lover of beauty and ambience, and that most of all, to live well we must eat well. Enjoyed this from start to finish.
Profile Image for Mikedariano.
153 reviews23 followers
November 6, 2017
I grabbed this because Michael Pollan blurbed the back. Wow Waters is interesting. Sometimes it feels like people become outsized participants of history because they get swept up. It's like a wave the rises and some person, it could be anyone, that's somewhere at sometime becomes larger than life. That's kinda Waters.
This book is a collection (a recollection?) of stories from her life. Rather than a singled mindedness to change the world Waters just wanted to eat well, speak freely, and have friends.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 434 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.