Alice Waters Defends Herself from Critics

As Chez Panisse founder's profile is raised, so is controversy

By Jackson West
|  Friday, Apr 2, 2010  |  Updated 2:30 PM PDT
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Famous Foodies Serve Up Their Junk Food Kryptonite

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Alice Waters earnest approach to eating and cooking have earned her plenty of detractors as well as admirers.

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Alice Waters, the beatific founder of legendary Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, may have done more to change the way America thinks of food in the last 30 years than anyone else.

And it hasn't made everyone happy.

Television personality and former chef Anothony Bourdain has compared her uncompromising position on fresh, local and sustainably raised ingredients equivalent to the uncompromising moral dictates of the Khmer Rouge, the authoritarian nationalist movement in Cambodia.

Waters has been blamed for everything from failing test scores to lazy chefs putting ingredients and provenance so far before technique, they just serve a fig on a plate and call it dessert.

Of course, Waters is somewhat compromising -- she flies in fish, and in an anecdote in the Los Angeles Times profile discussion the controversy, her head chef admits to flying a special brand of kumquat from California to Washington, D.C. while still being stuck without local greens.

And the second you try to defend Waters, because smug and dismissive she may be, she's ultimately right about our factory diet, she goes and says something like this about In-N-Out:

"It's probably better than any other chain," she said, "but it's not real or authentic. I'd rather eat from a street vendor in Sicily."

Wouldn't we all, Alice, wouldn't we all. But it's hard to see the difference between flying you to Sicily and flying Sicilian food to the United States, especially when you can get to In-N-Out on a bike.

Jackson West has never had kumquats flown anywhere.

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