Chez Panisse to Celebrate 40 Years With Events at the Berkeley Art Museum, Edible Schoolyard Dinners Nationwide

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Alice Waters and one of Chez Panisse's founding chefs, Willy Bishop, ca. 1974. Photo: Courtesy of Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse's big 40th anniversary blowout is just around the corner in late August. To celebrate the restaurant's long and colorful history, the kids from OPENrestaurant are helping to throw a weekend-long event August 26 and 27 at the Berkeley Art Museum that will include a tribute to the famed goat cheese salad in the form of a herd of live goats and cheese being made on site. Also, according to David Prior at Chez Panisse, you can expect "a nod to the early days of sex, drugs and Bandol rosé at Chez Panisse," a series of edible gardens on the grounds of the museum, and a salute to the many purveyors who have helped the restaurant build its reputation as the nexus of the farm-to-table movement. They scrapped some earlier plans for a party at the Berkeley Greek Theater in favor of doing multiple, smaller fundraising events that bring the focus back to the Edible Schoolyard, including Eating for Education dinners at restaurants around the country, as well as special dinners at the restaurant and some exclusive dinners in private homes around the Bay Area — e.g., a Chinese feast at Cecilia Chiang's house, and a pig roast in Michael Pollan's backyard.

The week will also mark the release of 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering (published August 23), which is a pictorial history of the restaurant narrated by Alice as well as many others who inhabited the place over the years. Below is an exclusive sneak peek at the book in the form of a page from the chapter that's cheekily titled 'Taste and Taste Again'. In the photo, Alice is kissing Willy Bishop, one of the founding chefs of the restaurant who was quoted in Vanity Fair saying of Alice's younger days, "Alice was innocent and frail and weak, but at the same time, she was a bad motherfucker. Her determination and her strength, hidden behind that frailty, made that place continue and continue and continue, no matter who left. And everybody left. But she didn’t. She is the woman."

Eating for Education is a project being spearheaded by local chef and organizer Samin Nosrat to spread the word about The Edible Schoolyard, and to raise funds for and awareness of school garden and school lunch programs across the country. Many restaurants are expected to participate in hosting fundraising dinners on August 27, including Quince and Cotogna in S.F., and Marlow & Sons and Lincoln (on August 21) in New York. Individuals are encouraged to host private dinners in their homes as well, and to donate to the campaign.

The Berkeley Art Museum event on Friday evening, August 26, will be a ticketed event at $100 per person, and will also include invited guests from food justice programs, school lunch reformers, and edible educators. There will be food, a preview of the OPENeducation installations, and the event will double as an unveiling of Alice's portrait for the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian — the first ever such unveiling to take place outside Washington, D.C. Tickets are available here.

Then on Saturday, August 27, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the museum and grounds (2626 Bancroft Way) will open up for free to the public (by reservation), and OPENeducation will "explore Chez Panisse's educational legacy, from its roots in the Free Speech Movement to the blossoming of Edible Schoolyards around the country. The outdoor spaces of the UC Berkeley Art Museum will be transformed into a series of edible gardens, cooking stations, installations, and classrooms that will investigate food education through experiential learning."

Look for more details in the coming weeks about a series of other TBA events and Alice-spotting opportunities in late August. (Sidenote: Luxury flash sale site One Kings Lane is offering full Chez Panisse anniversary experience packages, including tickets to multiple events and private access to Alice herself, with tax deductible pricetags ranging from $15,000 to $100,000. Those go on sale Tuesday, June 28, if you have that kind of cash.) And throughout the summer, Chez Panisse Café continues to do special tribute menus inspired by food world personae. This week's is inspired by English food writer Jane Grigson.

Click page to enlarge.

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40th Anniversary [Chez Panisse Foundation]