Chez Panisse and the history of the slow food movement – The State Journal-Register

Posted By on October 27, 2021

Jay Kitterman| Culinary and special events consultant, Lincoln Land Community College

Widely acclaimed as the pioneer of Californias farm-to-table cuisine, Chez Panisseshouldbe celebrating its 50th anniversarythis year.Safety concerns over social distancing ledrestaurant founder Alice Waters to postpone the reopening.This past year the restaurant hasserved pizzasfor takeoutand produce farmers market style on Sundays.Severalyearsago,Carol andI,while in SanFrancisco,traveledvia BART(rapidtransit) tothisiconicrestaurant in Berkley.

Waters,in her new book,We Are What We Eat,makesanimpassioned plea for aradical reconsideration of the way each and every one of us cooks and eats.Sheurges us to take up the mantle of slow food culture,thephilosophya core of her life's work. When Waters first opened Chez Panisse in 1971, she did so with the intention of feeding people good food during a time of political turmoil. Customers responded to the locally-sourced organic ingredients, to the dishes made by hand,towhatshe calls the human qualities that were disappearing from a country increasingly seduced by takeout, frozen dinners and prepackaged ingredients.Shecameto seethat the phenomenon offast-foodculture, which prioritized cheapness, availability and speed, was not only ruining our health, but also dehumanizing the ways we live and relate to one another.

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Waters believes and writesthat manyof the serious problems we face in the world today, "from illness, to social unrest, to economic disparity and environmentalchangeare all, at their core, connected to food.Fortunately,shebelieves thereis an antidote. Waters argues that by eating in a "slow food way," each of us, like the community around her restaurant, can be empowered to prioritize and nurture a different kind of culture, one that champions values such asbiodiversity, seasonality, stewardship and pleasure in work.She is a strong proponent of the slow food movement.

In 1986, McDonaldsin Italywanted to open a franchise at the base of the Spanish Steps and Italians were not pleased, so they gathered for a protest. Instead of just waving signs and chanting, they brought a big bowl of penne pasta and handed it out to the crowd that gathered. People shared a meal at the Spanish Steps and began chanting we dont want fastfood,we want slow food. That gathering was the foundation for the birth of the slow food movement.The organization is nowpresent in more than 150 countries and there is a Springfield chapter.

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Hannah Tomlin, owner of Moon GirlFarm,emailedme thatanyoneinterestedinjoiningor learning more aboutbecoming members of Slow Food Springfield can join by signing up for Slow Food USA and selecting Springfield, Illinois,as their local chapter.

Below is a recipeadapted from ''Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook,'' by Alice Waters.


4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk, slightly warmed

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 cup scallions, including a bit of the green part, thinly sliced

1/2 cup garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

Pinch of cayenne

1/2 cup gratedGruyerecheese (2ounces)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

3 large eggs, separated

1/3 cup heavy cream.


1. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the milk a little at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the thyme sprigs. Reduce heat to very low and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is medium-thick, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and remove the thyme.

2. Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add scallions, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup water. Reduce heat and cook until the garlic is soft and the water is nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary to keep the vegetables from browning. Set aside to cool.

3.Pureethe mixture in a food processor, add the sauce, cayenne,Gruyereand 1/2 teaspoon pepper and process until blended. Taste and adjust seasoning it should behighlyseasoned. Add the egg yolks and process until blended. Transfer to a large bowl.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter six 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until they form soft peaks and gently fold them into the cheese mixture. (Do not overfold.) Spoon into the ramekins and place in a baking pan. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake until thesoufflesare puffed and light golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the ramekins. When thesouffleshave cooled a bit, unmold them by running a paring knife around the edges, inverting each souffle into the palm of your hand and placing it in a shallow baking dish, top side up. They can now be held at room temperature for a few hours. They can also be held in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap, overnight.ENJOY!

Jay Kitterman is the culinary and special events consultant at Lincoln Land Community College.

Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in culinary arts and hospitality management, certificates in culinary arts and baking/pastry and non-credit community classes through the Culinary Institute.


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Chez Panisse and the history of the slow food movement - The State Journal-Register

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