Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution

Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution
Age Range
Release Date
January 18, 2022
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From the team behind the acclaimed Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science comes a delicious nonfiction picture book biography about pioneering chef Alice Waters who kickstarted the organic food movement.

Whenever young Alice Waters tasted something delicious, like the sun-warmed berries from her family’s garden or a crisp, ripe apple picked straight from the tree, she would remember it for the rest of her life. Later, as she tasted many more wonderful foods, she realized what made them so good—they were fresh and ripe, grown or made the old-fashioned way.

When Alice grew up, she opened a restaurant called Chez Panisse. As part of her quest to make delicious food, Alice sought out small, local farmers to provide the meat, dairy, and produce. The restaurant made her famous, but it did much more than that—it started a food revolution. Today, home cooks and chefs alike are all discovering the simple secret to the Best! Food! Ever! This book is a celebration of food, cooking, and the woman whose curiosity and devotion to flavor kickstarted America’s interest in buying local, organic food.

Editor review

1 review
Alice's Restaurant
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
Born in 1948, Alice Waters was very much a product of her time. Her family grew food on their property, so she was familiar with fresh produce, but they also embraced the convenience food trend of the 1950s, with it's canned and premade items. She went to college and was able to study in France, and came back with no particular purpose. Cooking French food, which was her passion "wasn't a job", but with the financial backing of family and the help of friends, she managed to start a restaurant in 1971, which she named Chez Panisse. It was dedicated to the freshest ingredients, and the untrained but dedicated staff produced one set menu every night. It was difficult to find organic ingredients that didn't come from industrial farms, but Waters scoured the Bay Area for ingredients, and was part of a movement of California Cuisine that spread through the United States in the 1970s. Later, in the 1990s, she worked with local schools to start gardens in schoolyards so that children could learn about science and also have tasty and healthy food. There are now over 5,000 school garden projects, and her restaurant is still in business.
Good Points
I loved the illustrations in this one, because they had a fun, 1960s vibe, with lots of detailed scenes and sense of movement, with a turquoise palette with pops of red. Even the font (Tox Typewriter) captures the retro feel.

This is more of a story than a biography, and there are anecdotes about a friend who bet someone that he would eat his shoe if he lost the bet, and Alice helped him cook it, pages that detail the themed menus, where garlic might even appear at desert, and stories about the people who worked in the restaurant. There is a little bit of information about food during this time period, but most of the text is concerned with Alice's interests.

There is certainly a lot of privilege in Waters' efforts to put together a restaurant-- the price of a meal there in 2022 is $175, which I can't even imagine. The same could be said of most food innovations that are heralded by the public. There's not an exciting story to tell about those of us whose diets consist of lots of canned food and the occasional fresh fruit! I did like that Waters was able to use her influence after the success of her restaurant to help children learn more about healthier and more planet friendly ways to arrange their diets.

With the notable exception of Julia Child, who has had a number of picture books written about her, there are not a lot of books about cooks who have had an impact on society. Rockliff's Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat being a notable exception. There is also the interesting European publication Veggie Power by Olaf Hajek, but that's just an overview of vegetables. Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution is a great choice for young readers who want to experience the Best. Food. Ever.!, and also a fun inclusion in a list of biographies for women's history month.
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