Explore Alice Water's journey to encourage people to root themselves in "slow food" values and improve our relationship with food and what we eat.
If you’re not familiar with Alice Waters, you’re almost certainly familiar with her impact on the modern culinary space. As the driving force behind the “Slow Food Movement,” Waters has influenced cultural norms around food along with the sustainability practices behind food production and food waste.
Let’s explore Waters’s lifelong journey to encourage people to root themselves in what she calls “slow food values” and improve our relationships with the food we eat.
Waters’s passion for food can be traced back to her degree in French culture from the University of California, Berkeley. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1967 and, at the same time, adopted Berkeley ideals of free speech and idealist practices. Following this experience, Waters traveled to Paris where she experienced farm-to-table cuisine firsthand. She was inspired by the French culture surrounding food and noticed a disconnect between the unprocessed, local food she was experiencing in Paris and the ultra-processed, mass-produced food that plagued most of the United States.
Just a few years later, Waters and her friend Lindsey Shere launched their own culinary endeavor: Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California. The restaurant opened in 1971 with a dedication to creating meals around seasonal ingredients from local suppliers.
Waters is well-known today for her contributions to our culinary culture, but she might not have achieved her icon status without her willingness to take a stand for her ideals.
Waters is the founding member of the Slow Food Movement, which is all about the process and attitude behind food sourcing and preparation. Unlike fast food, which often involves mass-produced ingredients and recipes based in efficiency, slow food requires a connection to the ingredients and a mindfulness around the cooking process. We know that Waters used these ideals in her own restaurant, but she later went on a mission to educate the masses about alternatives to the standard approach to cuisine.
Her most well-known effort was The Edible Schoolyard Project, which involved planting a garden and creating a cooking classroom in a local middle school. The students learned about sustainable agriculture and the responsibility we have as consumers to understand where our food is coming from and appreciate the farm-to-table journey.
Beyond just promoting conscientious consumption of food products, Waters identified a set of values around slow food that contradict the values we’re accustomed to with fast food. Fast food, in her framework, prioritizes fast, cheap, and easy methods of consumption.
Waters argues that fast food values are ultimately unsustainable. In a fast food society, as consumers, we’re always looking for the next iteration of fast, cheap, and easy, which leads to a lack of appreciation for the thought and care behind our food. The end result is a perpetually unsatisfying experience. While there are benefits to this system, Waters advocates for slow food values: community, sustainability, seasonality, and an overall attitude of care.
Waters is well-known today for her contributions to our culinary culture, but she might not have achieved her icon status without her willingness to take a stand for her ideals. Whether she knew it or not, Waters consistently applied marketing best practices as she shared her love for local, sustainable cuisine.
Here are some of the strategic moves that helped bring the Slow Food Movement to national attention:
As a pioneer of culinary sustainability, Waters introduced the narrative around understanding where our food comes from, preserving the natural resources required for production, and reconnecting to the local agriculture community. These values and talking points are clear in every initiative Waters has launched since her early career. Consistency over time helped to align these ideals with Waters’s personal brand and the larger Slow Food Movement.
Throughout her career, Waters has taken every opportunity to connect with the audiences that relate most to her ideology. She frequently gives speeches, participates in interviews, hosts events, and even writes books about sustainable food practices. Over time, this audience has come to know and love her work and they’re more likely to rally around the cause.
Lastly, Waters has been careful to align her actions with her values throughout her career. Between her farm-to-table restaurant and her community service projects, Waters has built a public persona that’s believable because her actions back up her words.
Today, the concept of a farm-to-table restaurant is commonplace in most large cities. Waters can be credited with popularizing this concept in the United States and championing other food-related causes that continue to gain traction in communities worldwide. Take this opportunity to learn from Waters and apply her findings to your own sustainability-focused marketing efforts.
Get the best content and best stories
in your inbox every day!