Chez Panisse

Coordinates: 37°52′46.49″N 122°16′8.46″W / 37.8795806°N 122.2690167°W / 37.8795806; -122.2690167

Chez Panisse is a Berkeley, California, restaurant, known as one of the originators of the style of cooking known as California cuisine, and the farm-to-table movement. The restaurant emphasizes ingredients rather than technique and has developed a supply network of direct relationships with local farmers, ranchers and dairies.

Chez Panisse
The front entrance to Chez Panisse
Restaurant information
Owner(s)Alice Waters
Food typeLocal/organic, California
CountryUnited States

The main, downstairs restaurant serves a set menu that changes daily and reflects the season's produce.[1] Prices vary with the day of the week, and as of 2020 range from $75 to $125.[2] An upstairs cafe offers an a la carte menu at lower prices.


The restaurateur, author and food activist Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971 with the film producer Paul Aratow, then a professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley. It is named for a character in a trilogy of Marcel Pagnol films.[3] They set up the restaurant and its menu on the principle that it was of primary importance to use food that was fresh and in season, grown locally, organically and sustainably. They deemphasized low prices and making available a variety of products unrelated to the season of the year, which is incompatible with growing food locally. Because the ingredients were procured locally in California, the food to some degree took on a very Californian character, hence helping create California cuisine.

Victoria Wise was the first chef.[4][5] Due to Waters' insistence on using the highest-quality ingredients available regardless of cost, coupled with her lack of experience in the restaurant business, Chez Panisse struggled financially for many years. The restaurant also gained a reputation for its staff's partying and illegal drug use. Nonetheless, Waters and the restaurant began building up their network of local producers, which continues to provide the restaurant with the majority of its ingredients today.[3] The restaurant continues to procure its ingredients from a network of local farmers, ranchers and dairies.[6] This approach was extremely innovative.[7] Later chefs de cuisine were Jeremiah Tower and Paul Bertolli and Jean-Pierre Moulle. The building was remodeled twice following fires in 1982 and 2013.[8]


The Chez Panisse downstairs kitchen and dining room

The culinary influences for Chez Panisse were largely French, inspired by the 1920s cookbook of French cuisine bourgeoise, La bonne cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange. This book has been translated into English by Paul Aratow, who was also the first chef de cuisine at Chez Panisse. Waters, who had been an exchange student in France in the early 1960s, was influenced by French food-related values and customs, including buying local produce and frugality in avoiding waste.[9] Other influences included vineyard owners Lulu and Lucien Peyraud and the writings of Richard Olney and Elizabeth David.

Critical receptionEdit

In 2001, Gourmet magazine named Chez Panisse the Best Restaurant in America.[10] From 2002 to 2008 it was ranked by Restaurant magazine as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world and was ranked number 12 in 2003.[11] Michelin awarded the restaurant a one-star rating in its guide to San Francisco Bay Area dining from 2006 through 2009, but the restaurant lost its star in 2010.[12][13] In 2007, Alice Waters won Restaurant Magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award, and was cited as one of the most influential figures in American cooking over the past 50 years.[14]

A 2019 review by San Francisco Chronice food critic Soleil Ho praised the fruit bowl, but complained that the servers couldn't answer questions about the food and that some dishes were "acid" or "acrid." She compared the recent evolution of the restaurant to the way that "revolutionary movements fizzle out."

Culinary innovationsEdit

  • The aforementioned emphasis on farm-to-table and California cuisine.
  • California-style pizza, baked in an in-house pizza oven and topped with a variety of local ingredients, was created at the cafe in 1980.[15]
  • Goat Cheese Salad: first offered in the late 1970s, the salad contains rounds of chèvre marinated in olive oil and herbs, coated in bread crumbs, and baked, served with lightly dressed mesclun.[16]
  • In-house carbonated tap water: this filtered version of the East Bay Municipal Utility District offering first replaced conventional bottled water at the restaurant in summer 2006.[17]

Art of Chez PanisseEdit

Berkeley designer and printmaker David Lance Goines has illustrated many of the Chez Panisse posters and defined the visual brand in the 1970s and 1980s.[18][19] The aesthetic for the brand was influenced by Ukiyo-e and the German Art Nouveau movement (German: Jugendstil).[19]

Patricia Curtan has been the designer and artist of many of the menus and some of the cookbooks for Chez Panisse, which were created as linocut prints.[20] Curtan published the book Menus for Chez Panisse (2011).[21]

Notable alumniEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "About". Chez Panisse Restaurant. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  2. ^ "How expensive is Chez Panisse?".
  3. ^ a b Alice Waters & Chez Panisse, Thomas McNamee, The Penguin Press, 2007.
  4. ^ Tackeff, Sam. "pig by the tail | The Second Lunch". Retrieved Jul 13, 2019.
  5. ^ "Victoria Wise". Jan 29, 2010. Retrieved Jul 13, 2019.
  6. ^ Chez Panisse website|accessdate = 2010-10-27
  7. ^ Magazine, Smithsonian. "Fifty Years Ago, Berkeley Restaurant Chez Panisse Launched the Farm-to-Table Movement". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2021-11-06.
  8. ^ Staff, Lydia Tuan (Jun 24, 2013). "Chez Panisse to reopen Monday after March fire". The Daily Californian. Retrieved Jul 13, 2019.
  9. ^ "Chatting with Alice Waters: French Food Culture, Cooking for Kids and a Dressed-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich". Food Network. Retrieved 2021-11-06.
  10. ^ "Alice Waters Biography". Retrieved 2010-10-27.
  11. ^ Number 12 in 2003, Number 20 in 2006, number 69 in 2010"The World's Best Restaurants. 2006". Restaurant magazine. William Reed Publishing Ltd. Archived from the original on 2012-05-30. Retrieved 2010-10-27. Number 40 in 2007,"The World's Best Restaurants. 2007". Archived from the original on 2007-04-24. Retrieved 2007-04-24. and #37 in 2008.
  12. ^ Finz, Stacy (2007-10-24). "What's New: Who's in, who's out in second Michelin guide". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-11-04.
  13. ^ Birdsall, John (October 27, 2010). "Michelin's Stripping Chez Panisse of Its Star No Ding on Alice". SF Weekly. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  14. ^ "Alice Waters – 2007". Restaurant Magazine. William Reed Publishing Ltd. Archived from the original on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  15. ^ Robert Lauriston (2007-09-26). "Pizza Smackdown:SoCal chain goes head to head with hometown favorite". San Francisco Weekly. Archived from the original on December 25, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
  16. ^ Severson, Kim (2006-10-18). "For American Chèvre, An Era Ends". The New York Times.
  17. ^ At Chez Panisse, It's Time for Tap Water NPR's All Things Considered, March 22, 2007
  18. ^ "David Lance Goines". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 2022-04-09.
  19. ^ a b Guthmann, Edward (2014-04-13). "Prince of posters David Lance Goines keeps his hand in". SFGATE. Retrieved 2022-04-09.
  20. ^ "Q&A: Chef offers inside scoop on Roux40, a soon-to-open Oakland restaurant designed and run by women of color". The Mercury News. 2021-10-01. Retrieved 2022-04-09.
  21. ^ Sadlier, Darlene J. (2019-08-09). The Lilly Library from A to Z: Intriguing Objects in a World-Class Collection. Indiana University Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-0-253-04269-9.

External linksEdit