Berkeley chef and local food activist Alice Waters was honored by President Barack Obama at the White House as a recipient of a National Humanities Medal on Thursday.
Waters, 71, was honored for “celebrating the bond between the ethical and the edible” at the ceremony and was one of 10 recipients of the humanities medal this year.
More than 40 years ago, Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley — a French restaurant that championed the farm-to-table movement — and co-owned Berkeley restaurant Cafe Fanny for 28 years before it closed in 2012.
A UC Berkeley graduate, Waters attributes her passion for activism to the Free Speech Movement. Waters founded the Chez Panisse Foundation in 1996, which helped support a 1-acre garden and eco-gastronomic curriculum at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. Since then, the organization has become focused on building a national edible curriculum, renamed the Edible Schoolyard Project in 2011.
Just outside the ceremony was the White House’s organic garden — a garden lobbied for since 1993 by Waters herself — where schoolchildren are invited each year to harvest and learn.