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There is a great piece on about Alice Waters, the founder of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, an author, and a champion of local eating and organic cooking.

Waters, to put it mildly, is an extremist:

“Alice Waters is not content for you to simply eat organic produce,” Salon writes. “No, no. It's got to be organic and local and seasonal, and really, for it to be any good at all, you have to get it from the farmer who pulled it out of the earth. And ideally that farmer would be a friend of yours. You and he would discuss the soil and seasons and his search for heirloom varieties, and he would give you tips for your own garden, where, of course, you'd spend many of your weekends.

“Alice Waters doesn't want you to use store-bought stock, or mayonnaise from a jar, anything frozen (even peas!), or salad that comes in a bag. She would rather you stay away from nearly every kitchen appliance, including a blender -- a food mill or a Japanese mortar and pestle called a suribachi is wholly preferable.

“Consider the eggs Alice Waters wants you to buy, the eggs she serves at Chez Panisse: eggs from chickens raised on a pasture, chickens who enjoy, among other humane conditions, freedom from having their beaks trimmed by their handlers. This is a practice performed at nearly every egg farm in the country, including the ones that sell the $4-a-dozen eggs you buy at so-called responsible stores like Whole Foods. Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is extremely difficult to find Waters-approved eggs – for long periods of the year, production is so low that farms impose rationing and stop supplying most stores; you have to wake up very early even to find them at the farmers' market.”

Waters’ new book, "The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes From a Delicious Revolution," lays out some basic gastronomic principles. And this is where some of what she says seems somewhat less extreme: “Eat locally and sustainably, eat seasonally, eat together with friends and family, and most important, to remember that ‘food should never be taken for granted’.”
KC's View:
First of all, I had one of the best meals of my life at Chez Panisse, so she gets points for that.

Essentially, her gastronomic principles are good ones, and certainly could form the core of a differentiated marketing strategy. She’s a little out there for my tastes in terms of her purism about where foods come from, but it is hard to argue with her essential premise that the American focus on speed and quantity as opposed to quality and nutrition certainly has hurt our national approach to food.

And while Waters may be something of a prophet in the wilderness, I think she reflects an approach to food that has a small but growing list of disciples. Food retailers need to think seriously about these issues – not because they plan to adopt all of her views, but because thinking seriously about food and quality and sustainability and the their relative importance to how we live our lives seems like a smart thing to do.

Check out this story and interview with Waters over on