Chez Panisse Thirtieth Anniversary


Edition of 1744 of which 125 copies are signed 1-125, 26 copies are signed A-Z as artist's proofs, three sets are signed as progressives.

1107 with the Chez Panisse Foundation text 207 with the Chez Panisse Foundation and West Coast Live text 430 with the Bancroft Library text

August 23, 2001, 11 colors, 17-1/2› x 24›

Client: Chez Panisse Café & Restaurant, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley CA 94709. Telephone (510) 548-5525

1-100: Saint Hieronymus Press, Inc. A-Z: Artist's own use Progressives: One set to Alice Waters, two sets to Saint Hieronymus Press, Inc.

In 1964, my Free Speech Movement comrade Jack Weinberg coined a phrase which immediately entered the popular mind: "Don't trust anyone over thirty." We none of us even imagined turning thirty, then. Thirty was as far away as Africa, as far as the Moon. Further than that. Thirty was what grownups were, with their strange grown-up values and their realpolitik world of compromise and equivocation. We were going to be young forever, and had no use for such things. We lived on love and air. A bit later we discovered food. Food was not what grownups ate: what grownups ate was fuel, washed down with hard liquor. The food we discovered was as though we had invented it, which in a strange sense we had. My mother brought me up on health food, and homemade bread. We ate well and heartily, but there was nothing like my mother's cooking in any restaurant. When Alice and I began giving dinner parties, we had nothing to go on but her memories of rural France and Elizabeth David's recipes. We couldn't buy the food we wanted, and so we had to make it ourselves. We couldn't even buy the ingredients, and so we began raising them, or searching out people who did.

Fancy restaurants were defined by the degree to which they served food that you could not possibily prepare at home: anything en croût, fish stuffed with oysters stuffed with spinach, the whole shebang drenched in a heavy cream sauce and decorated to look like something else entirely. Architectural desserts, baked Alaska, and anything that could be served while on fire. Lots of expensive French wines. Not a California wine to be seen. But healthful or actually tasty? Only as a by-product.

The one time four of us decided to splurge and go out to eat at Rue Lepic, one of San Francisco's high-tone French restaurants, we were refused service. Not only that, but we couldn't even get in the door. Claude Michelle Labro and Martine Kuhn, both cosmopolitan to the core, were bitterly insulted, and berated the maître d' in their snotty Parisian accents. Alice chimed in with her schoolgirl French, and although he must have realized his mistake, the maître d' stuck to his decision not to admit a quartet of young, eccentrically dressed, student types. That was, to my recollection, the first and last time any of us tried to sample what grownups had to offer. Nothing at all was what they had to offer, and we took the lesson to heart. In the fullness of time we each of us attained the astounding antiquity of thirty, but we steadfastly refused to become grownups. We had early on decided that the grown-up world was not for us, and we therefore created a world more to our liking.

When I turned thirty myself, Chez Panisse was four years old. Many of the pivotal cooks were our former dinner guests. The clientele still needed a good deal of education to understand what Chez Panisse was driving at, and negative criticisms were almost as common as praise. The Berkeley Gazette covered the Second Birthday cassoulet dinner with the dismissive complaint that the reviewer was damned if he understood why he was expected to pay five dollars for beans and franks. Letters complaining that the food was too weird and that there wasn't enough of it to feed a bird were a commonplace.

You can eat at any number of restaurants, now, that serve good food, carefully prepared. You can also buy the ingredients and cook good food at home, at least around here. It's a different story elsewhere. Thirty years isn't really such a long time, after all. Trust me.