Friday, August 14, 2009

Alice Waters Awarded French Legion of Honor

She's won a James Beard Award and a Bon Appetit lifetime achievement award and has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame. But for Alice Waters, recognition by the French Legion of Honor was really special.

"I learned everything in France," the Chez Panisse chef-restaurateur said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "An aesthetic. The way I serve a meal. The way I think about food. Period."

Waters received official notice from the Embassy on Tuesday. As "Chevalier," she joins a string of high-profile celebrities in the ultimate French insiders' club; "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, singer Celine Dion and fashion designer John Galliano are members. But there are not many chefs, let alone American ones. That's because chefs and farmers of distinction are generally awarded the merit agricole, said Christophe Musitelli, the French cultural attaché in San Francisco. The last celebrity chef inducted was Julia Child in 1991, he said.

"Alice has brought to this country a way to think about cuisine," Musitelli said. "It's not only the cooking but the philosophy, the emphasis on organic, the support of Slow Food. For us, she's a very important figure."

Oh. And Chez Panisse is the destination for local French foodies.

The date and location of the induction ceremony has not yet been decided, Waters said: "They said we could do it in San Francisco or France. And I thought, 'Oh, France! That would be nice.' "

-- Jane Black

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