Chez Panisse is the ultimate foodie heaven; a restaurant where most of us would be lucky to get a reservation, never mind afford it. Its founder, Alice Waters, opened this organic paradise of a restaurant 35 years ago, at a time when eating organic and locally-grown food was strictly for hippies. Having always cooked for friends, she decided to try and make some money out of her skills by serving food cooked with freshly grown produce and presented in a set menu format (unheard of in America at the time). Initially she went to specialty producers for ingredients because most of the standard suppliers didn't grow what she wanted. Back then, she had a food forager as a member of staff who would find berries and wild leaves. "We used to pick from people's gardens, and from the roadside, and then over the years we started meeting organic local producers and that's how it all started" she said. She believes that "85% of an ingredient's flavour happens before it even reaches the kitchen". To this day she serves a pizza with wild nettles.
Her new crusade is "ecogastronomy", a progamme to educate school children about what they eat. For the last 12 years the restaurant has funded a local school so that it could have an edible food garden where the children grow, cook, learn and eat. As she says "It's about re-connecting to nature, about behavioural patterns and about teaching children the importance of eating well and taking care of the land and themselves." As a result of her lifelong dedication, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent World's 50 Best Restaurants awards. :: Guardian