Want to garden like Alice Waters? Then put in a night shift
In The Garden Chef, the Chez Panisse founder shares growing tips and what just might be her favourite recipe ever!
To understand today’s great chefs you have to go beyond the gas burner, and look at the raw materials that make it into their pots and pans. One of the freshest, simplest sources of ingredients is the kitchen garden, and one of the easiest ways to understand what goes into the best of those gardens, and what the world’s greatest chefs get out of them is via our new book, The Garden Chef.
This heavily researched, beautifully illustrated publication includes more than 100 imaginative garden-focused recipes from the restaurants featured and explores how 40 of the world's top chefs grow and cook with ingredients picked from their own gardens, and provides a unique source of inspiration for green-fingered food-lovers.
There are plenty of big names in there, though few have been as influential as the 75-year-old patron chef, Alice Waters. “In 1971, aged just 27, Waters opened her legendary restaurant in an Arts and Crafts house in the Californian university town of Berkeley,” explains our book.
“Inspired by time spent in Europe, she focused on provincial French cuisine, and went on to popularize the idea of plot-to-plate cooking in her native USA, using the very best local, organic, and sustainable produce, and celebrating the farmers who grew and farmed it. Although the restaurant’s lettuce garden in her own backyard moved to a farm, her personal garden continues to delight Waters.”
And one of the chief sources of delight are Alice’s herbs. “If you only plant one thing, plant some herbs,” advises Waters in the new book. “They are easy to grow and offer so much in return. Scatter them throughout your garden to take advantage of their fragrance and beauty. Branches and bouquets of herbs flavor my stocks, soups, roasts, and stews; the leaves of tender herbs are tossed into salads."
Other salad ingredients, however, require a little more labour. “In most climates, it is possible to grow lettuces and other greens year-round,” she says. “Once up, the young sprouts are quite susceptible to the creeping and crawling denizens of the garden. Patrol nightly with a flashlight to find and remove any slugs and snails, and plant in raised beds and containers to discourage marauders.”
Thankfully, her garden also provides Waters with a way of unwinding too. “I end almost every meal with a glass of tisane—fresh mint and maybe lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora), snipped fresh from the garden and infused into boiling water,” she says. “That might be my favorite recipe of all time.”
We’d drink to that. To find out more about how Alice’s garden grows, and gain access to a trio of recipes drawn from it order a copy of The Garden Chef here.