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Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  3,870 ratings  ·  401 reviews
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 mar
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Clarkson Potter Publishers
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 ·  3,870 ratings  ·  401 reviews

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Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 ex ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
Recommended to Gail by: Other reviewers
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 coul ...more
Brandon Gaukel
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
---- 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 th

Kathy Cowie
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
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 le
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I love Alice Waters and was extremely excited about this book, enough so that I grabbed an ARC months before it came out. And 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 w ...more
Sally Anne
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.
Daniel Palevski
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 l
Rebecca Wilkins
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 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 be ...more
Sheri Schlondrop
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: not-bad, book-club
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 s ...more
Apr 19, 2018 added it
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 ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 borin ...more
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
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-books, 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.
Hope Sherman
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
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! ...more
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
Scottsdale Public Library
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 r ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
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 sh
Karen Whitehead
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 practic ...more
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 f
Sindhu Jose
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Coming to My Senses", Alice Water's coming-of-age story, ends where she opens Chez Panisse, the iconic Berkeley restaurant born out of the counterculture ideals of the 60s. Here is an idealistic, free spirited, passionate, middle class woman, reading, learning, watching movies, cooking, making friends, travelling the world, trying out different cuisines, absorbing the best of all cultures, finding her calling, and raising money to open a restaurant of her own in 1971. A restaurant that would ev ...more
Cara Bride
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this book so much! What an interesting, brave, unpretentious woman; a Francophile after my own heart, who has lived such a full life - traveling, experiencing and learning everything she could about food, especially the French way of cooking, presenting, and enjoying it. She took a leap of faith and opened her little French restaurant in Berkeley called Chez Panisse, which is still there today, and has landed on my Bucket List!
Apr 25, 2018 added it
Because I love to bake and have always secretly hoped Alice Waters (and Roger Waters) was related to me somehow this book appealed. It covers her childhood up until she opened Chez Panisse in 1971. Not a page turner, but I found it interesting and worth the read.
Elisabeth Sherman
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I was charmed and absorbed by this memoir and Waters' recollection of her Europe travel adventures but I also found her dismissal of "fast food" classist and self-righteous, and her obsession with aesthetics totally devoid of substance. I wanted to love this book but couldn't. ...more
Crystal Reaume
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I picked this it was a completely random selection- I had no idea who Alice Waters is. I just really like food biographies.

I love how this was written. It was so smart and informative and told a great story.
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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

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