Alice Waters

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Chef Alice Waters pioneered a new way of approaching food. She touches on the sensual aspects of both eating and music listening in her Guest DJ set -- from the track that keeps her dancing in the kitchen to the sounds of a Sengalese artist and a surprising choice from an acclaimed indie rock band. Waters is the owner of the world famous restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

For More:


1.) Nina Simone -I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl
2.) Radiohead - Reckoner
3.) David Byrne - Independence Day
4.) Jefferson Airplane - Volunteers
5.) Youssou N'Dour - Tan Bi


Tom Schnabel:  Hi, this is Tom Schnabel from KCRW and I am here with chef Alice Waters, who has championed local and sustainable food practices and is the owner of the world famous restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley.  We'll be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project.  Why don't we start with your first pick, Alice, from one of my favorite artists, and that is Nina Simone.  She's singing here, I think a song that actually goes back to the '20s, was a very racy song from the '20s.

Song: Nina Simone’s “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl”

NinaSimone.jpgAlice Waters:  It's a beautiful, sensual song and I am always trying to get people to open up and to touch and to taste and to smell and really engage in a different way with food.  I was really drawn to the words in this song and the way that it brings you into that experience. I play it when I'm cooking in the kitchen, and it's so beautiful and so deep in its sensual appeal.  

AW:  Offering somebody something that's nourishing and delicious is offering somebody love.  It is.  The parents who take care of their children and people who really feed their friends -- it's a beautiful thing.  It's undoubtedly why I opened the restaurant. I like that experience.  

TS:  That was Nina Simone, "I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl," brought to us by Alice Waters, who is our guest today on KCRW's Guest DJ Project.  The next piece of music, the next band that you've chosen, is one of our favorites, Radiohead.  Tell us why you chose Radiohead, Alice.

radiohead.jpgAW:  This past summer, a friend of mine offered me tickets to a concert at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I just wasn't paying any attention to it, but everybody at Chez Panisse said, 'If you do not take those tickets, I want them.  I want them.'  And I was grabbed by the hand with a young friend and we raced over to San Francisco at the last minute and we were late.  He said, 'Stop at a hotel in downtown San Francisco because there are no taxis that are going to take you out to Golden Gate Park.'  So we stopped at this place and had to bribe the taxi.  He said 'I'm not getting anywhere near it because it's just so congested,' and I had to talk him into having dinners at Chez Panisse and we got taken up fairly close and we ran the rest of the way into the park and we made it.  As we were entering we could hear the music of "Reckoner."  

Song: Radiohead’s “Reckoner” 

AW:  We were quite far from seeing the people actually, but I loved the graphics, the sort of light show that was going on onstage.  There was something incredibly artful about it.  I've always been a kind of classical music person, in my heart, and yet the voices and the orchestration I think is really so rich and so magical.  

TS:  Music of Radiohead, the song "Reckoner," courtesy of our guest today, Alice Waters.  KCRW's Guest DJ Project, I'm Tom Schnabel.  Alice, your next pick is another one of our favorite artists, a guy who kind of has reinvented himself a few times, David Byrne.  Tell us why you love David Byrne.

davidbyrne.jpgAW:  Well, I play him a lot at home while I'm moving around the kitchen and the house.  I feel like I'm a very good friend of his, in a way, over a long period of time.  But this particular piece of music, I played during the Obama campaign. I would play it first thing in the morning and I would dance to this, which took me through the day.  And I played it the night he was elected.  And it continues to lift me up and make me feel hopeful.  

Song: David Byrne’s “Independence Day”

TS:  You're someone who has championed local and sustainable food practices.  It seems like you kind of started this movement. 

AW:  I'm just trying to bring people back to their senses, really.  It's not okay, the way that we're eating, and we have to think about it entirely differently.  We have to go back to the earth and get our hands down in it and understand that food is something that is very precious.  I think that we need to put people back to work, you know, in a WPA kind of project, growing food - real food without pesticides - get them back into that sort of spirit of the Victory Garden.  

TS:  Music of David Byrne, "Independence Day", brought to us by Alice Waters, who is our guest today on KCRW's Guest DJ Project.  Our next piece of music is Jefferson Airplane - what made you pick this song?  

jeffersonairplane.jpgAW:  Well, I think it takes me right back to the times in Berkeley at the University of California.  I went to a Jefferson Airplane concert that was sort of a benefit for peace in Vietnam and I had never been to one of those really big concerts before and I was just kind of astonished looking up at this 30-foot high stage and a light show going on on the ceiling.  I was really taken by it.  

Song: Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers”

AW:  We felt like we were all together in the movement and it really is a different experience than sitting at home and listening to it on a sound system.  It's like the difference between eating at home and eating in a restaurant.  You're involved in a community spirit and you feel a kind of connectedness that I think is very difficult to feel in your own little private room or on your earphones while you're sitting at the airport.

TS:  Jefferson Airplane, "Volunteers."  I'm Tom Schnabel and I'm here with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project.  Your next pick is from a Senegalese superstar -- there just was a movie about him called “I Bring What I Love” and his name is Youssou N’Dour.  Why did you pick Youssou N’Dour?  

tanbi.jpgAW: I went to a concert a couple of years ago, I walked in and I felt like I was in Senegal. Everybody was standing up, everybody was engaged with the music the whole time, people were dancing. I just thought, ‘he's speaking to all of us and we can understand it even though we can't understand it -- we can understand it with our bodies. It's a universal language that is communicating feelings of love and peace,’ and it touched me and I have been listening to it ever since.

Song: Youssou N’Dour’s “Tan Bi”

TS: The thing I like about Youssou N’Dour is the fact that his songs are always about something real and something important and it kind of reminds me a little bit of very honest food.

AW: *laughs* Absolutely. And it's what I'm trying to do all the time is to just let the food be what it is. I think it's so important that food is cooked simply and tastes of what it is. To pick those ripe tomatoes and do as little as possible to them. I put them on the plate a little olive oil, a little salt maybe, a torn piece of basil and it's just the best possible dish I could eat. And I think it does really feel like the music of Youssou N’Dour.

TS: Because it's honest

AW: Because it is honest, that's a very beautiful way of saying it

TS: That was Youssou Ndour, the song "Tan Bi" from our guest today, Alice Waters. We're very honored to have you here on KCRW's Guest DJ Project today. Thank you so much

AW: Thank you again

TS: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to





Tom Schnabel