cover image Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

Alice Waters. Clarkson Potter, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-71828-0

Chef and restaurateur Waters (In the Green Kitchen, etc.) offers a personal view of her early life in this intimate and colorful memoir. The founder of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café in Berkeley, Calif., Waters recalls a happy though gastronomically dull (e.g., frozen fish sticks, iceberg lettuce) upbringing in Chatham, N.J., as one of four sisters born to a Democrat mother and Republican father. Her supportive parents sent her to the University of California, Berkeley, where in the 1960s she became a political activist, aligning herself with the free-speech movement and the protest against the Vietnam War. She traveled to France for a junior year abroad and fell in love with all things French, eventually declaring the French history as her college major. Waters also fell in love with French food during the trip; her tastes and senses were, in her words, “awakened.” Waters began to dream of opening a restaurant; she purchased a house in Berkeley and in l971, at the age of 27, opened Chez Panisse—a unique, organic, locally sourced restaurant with a prix fixe menu and just one main entrée served each evening, producing an experience much like dining in a private home. Readers will be charmed by Waters’s adoration of exquisitely prepared food. Her anecdotes and her descriptions of friends and customers (many of whom were filmmakers, artists, and prominent thinkers of the time) bring the era and the restaurant to the mind’s eye in vibrant detail. (Sept.)