Luisa Dörr for TIME

Alice Waters' interview is part of TIME Firsts, a multimedia project featuring 46 groundbreaking women. Watch the rest of the videos at Time.com/Firsts. Buy the book at the TIME Shop.

August 30, 2017

"When I graduated from college, it was kind of expected that you would get married and have children," says Alice Waters, the world-renowned chef who opened Chez Panisse, the pride of Californian gastronomy, more than 45 years ago. "Like my mother had done, have a drink ready for my father when he'd get home from work."

Waters wouldn't relegate herself to that path in life, however -- her studies at the University of California, Berkeley brought her to Paris, where she fell in love with French cuisine and the then downplayed idea of locality and organically sourced ingredients. While she eventually would leave the kitchen to grow elsewhere throughout a lifelong career in food, Waters would be the first female to ever win the highly sought after Outstanding Chef award, given to her in 1992 by the James Beard Foundation.

Alice Waters is a game changer -- one that TIME Magazine has highlighted in a new multimedia project called Firsts. She's among 46 innovative women trailblazing the way for hard-fought growth in many different industries, from Oprah Winfrey to Ellen DeGeneres and Aretha Franklin, and has a rich story of both setbacks and success.

TIME's Firsts debuts today, and like Waters, you'll find yourself learning about a whole new side to both iconic figures and up-and-comers that are shaping the future today.

Waters opened the influential Chez Panisse in 1971 after converting an older house in Berkeley into an extended dining room for patrons to enjoy family-style meals. Her work at Chez Panisse has long been credited as the birth of farm-to-table cuisine not only in California, but across the nation as well. Her name and profile are now synonymous with local, seasonal, and organically produced foods long before anyone paid attention to the ideas she's fought to champion herself.

"We were three women, we were not chefs, we never operated the restaurants the way we were expected to," Waters shares candidly in an interview for TIME's new series.

"We were cooking the way that we cooked at home, and because we only had one menu every night, it had to be really good."

Waters shares with TIME that she was floored when the industry didn't immediately recognize her work to highlight wholesome ingredients; it would take nearly 40 years of advocating for organic ingredients, in defense of taste as well as nutrition, before the industry paid her the same attention she's paid now.

"I was shocked when the French chefs came to the restaurant and said "That's not cooking, that's shopping," she says.

That initial pushback pales in comparison to the resounding success Waters has had over her entire career -- there's a laundry list of awards she's earned in the sustainability arena, but even more recognition in her activism to bring awareness to healthy cuisine.

"Women are very concerned about nourishment, about really taking care of people. I love for everybody to sit down and eat together."

She's pioneered Edible Schoolyard, an organization that is fighting to implement healthier lunches in public schools and educate children about nourishing food and even small-scale farming. The idea of healthy in America has by and large been defined by her work.

"Here we are 45 years later, and the restaurant really became what it is because of taste. Women are very concerned about nourishment and really taking care of people," she says, a hint of emotion in her voice, a hallmark trait of a pioneer who has fought for Americans to view food differently in an era of fast-food culture.

Waters' interview is available in it's entirety, as well as TIME's entire Firsts video series with other groundbreaking women, right here. Time Inc. Books will publish a hardcover collection of portraits and full interviews of all 46 women being highlighted in the project this October. You can learn more about the project, and preorder the book, through the magazine's online store.

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