That’s the question the Los Angeles Times poses in a lengthy article today, written to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Chez Panisse.
The answers are varied:
“There’s something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters,” said Anthony Bourdain, a chef as well known for his theatricality as his food. “I’m suspicious of orthodoxy when it comes to what you put in your mouth.”
The New York Post called her “a patron saint of the “holier-than-thou food police” and champion of “a chiding and bourgeois brand of junk food prohibitionism.”
“She’s an absolutist, which is a great strength,” Michael Pollan to the Times. “But changing hearts and minds sometimes requires compromise. “That’s something we argue about from time to time, until I realize it’s a waste of breath,” he added. “She’s staking out a pure position, and every movement needs that.”
She’s “a kind of lightning rod for Berkeley liberal elitism,” said the San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson. “There’s a tone of certainty, of almost religious fervor, that puts a lot of people off. It’s unfortunate, because the core of her message is important.”
This critical look at Waters comes just a day after a local group capitalized on her name and fame to draw attention to the cause of toxic sludge. The Organic Consumers Association picketed Chez Panisse on April 1, charging Waters with not speaking out against putting the sludge on organic gardens. Waters completely denied the accusation, and said the OCA was misrepresenting her position.
Of course there is much much more to Alice Waters then the animosity she inspires. Read here to find out more.