Friday, October 9, 2009

Chez Panisse and Gourmet Magazine

Alice Waters’ restaurant Chez Panisse entered the public consciousness thirty four years ago after a rave review appeared in the October 1975 issue of Gourmet magazine. Waters was 31. Suddenly everything changed. Foodies began to camp outside the restaurant. People started calling from other time zones asking for a reservation. Alice's restaurant is still there, just a few steps up from a busy commercial strip in Berkeley, but Gourmet magazine is ceasing publication this month after 68 years.

I still remember getting my first illustration assignment from Gourmet, twenty years ago. I called their offices on Lexington in the Upper East Side of New York from a phone booth a few blocks away. It was pouring rain. We had just spent an hour at the Frick. The art director was very nice, but too busy to see my portfolio, but he assigned me a feature illustration over the phone. I think it was a map of a wine region. I was 33, and it was a big deal appearing in such a magazine. That winter, on a trip to San Francisco, we drove over the Bay Bridge to Berkeley and had lunch at Chez Panisse. It was delicious. Alice Waters appears five times in A Book of Ages.

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