I’ll be in California again next week and am delighted to note the 50th birthday of Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant where the “farm to fork” movement began in the 1970s.
Chef Alice Waters has become a legend, not only for her culinary skills but her community involvement – with schools, prisons and anywhere else people are willing to learn to grow and prepare their own healthy food.
She’s also one of the experts highlighted in the first textbook I coauthored, in 1999.
In writing a textbook, my goal is to make it so useful that when the course is finished, the student says, “I can’t sell this one – I’m gonna need it.”
So, between chapters, I place interviews with people working in whatever field the book covers, asking their best advice for students. With Ms. Waters, the topic was restaurant design and equipment.
She talked about the need for restaurant food to be “nourishing as well as delicious,” and for a dining area small enough that the chef and staff can feel connected to the customers. (She said they won’t mind sitting close together as long as the food is good!)
She’s a stickler for cleanliness, and had lots of good advice about how to arrange walk-in coolers and storage areas, and how to avoid overequipping a kitchen with gadgets.
“You can’t put them (the cooks) in some little corner full of soulless machines and expect to have something really tasty come out,” Waters said.
If you’re working on a nonfiction book, think about the importance of adding these types of personal insights from folks who know the subject inside and out. They’ll add a dimension you can’t get with graphs, charts and research.
I’ve found most experts are generous with their time, especially when they know the results will be shared with students.
And I’ll close now, because just thinking about Chez Panisse is making me hungry!
(Photo credit: Alex Vinogradov, Apr. 2021)