For many years, chef and restaurateur Alice Waters has rejected the idea of expanding her restaurant empire or trying to replicate Chez Panisse anywhere outside of Berkeley. But now she is taking on her first new restaurant project since Cafe Fanny closed almost a decade ago.
As Eater LA reported late last week, Waters is teaming up with longtime former Chez Panisse chef David Tanis to open a still-unnamed restaurant at UCLA's Hammer Museum. In the spirit of Waters' long-established personal brand and Chez Panisse itself, the restaurant will "highlight wholesome foods sourced from local farms dedicated to responsible and regenerative farming practices," according to reps for the museum.
Also involved in the project is Jesse McBride, who will serve as operations lead, and who previously has worked at the Chateau Marmont and Standard hotels; and Oliver Monday, who will serve as the restaurant's lead forager.
Waters recently published a new book, her 14th not including two children's books and other cookbooks that she's contributed to, and it's titled We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto. Long a champion of local, seasonal, organic cuisine inspired by Mediterranean cooking, Waters has for many years been more of an outspoken iconoclast and promoter of a movement than a hands-on chef, though she remains owner and inspiration of Chez Panisse.
A recent Grub Street Diet that she contributed to New York Mag's Grub Street is indicative of her personal style these days — she loves to talk about cooking a fried egg in an iron spoon over her kitchen fire in the morning, something she's been showing off for TV cameras since she did it for Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes in 2009. (Anthony Bourdain famously reacted to that demo calling her "Pol Pot in a muumuu" and joking that she "used six cords of wood to cook one egg," making a widely embraced point about the preciousness and un-reality of much of the Slow Food movement.) She also very controversially admitted that while California produces good tomatoes, they don't compare to the tomatoes they grow in New Jersey, where she grew up.
You also might be surprised to learn that she doesn't care much for blueberries, and she finds yogurt and granola, in general, to be a bit too "health-foody" of a breakfast, "like an obligation."
Tanis, who served as executive chef at the downstairs restaurant at Chez Panisse on and off for 25 years before leaving to focus on his writing career in 2013, is often credited with being one of the chefs who helped shape the simple style of Chez Panisse's food and put the restaurant on the map in the 1980s and 90s.
Besides Chez Panisse, Waters has not owned or operated any other restaurant except Berkeley's Cafe Fanny, which was named for her daughter, and which closed in 2012.
We'll update you when we learn more about the new restaurant, and when they plan to open.
Top image: Alice Waters at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for ChefDance