Alice Waters is a culinary heavyweight, a true leader in sustainability and the slow food movement, using products from local farms and producers at her iconic Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Now she’s taking those same principles corporate.
Waters has partnered with Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, North America to help develop a new, organic children’s menu, which will be offered in all full-service Hyatt hotels and resorts throughout the U.S. and Caribbean. The partnership is Waters’ first major collaboration with a large corporation, but one she thinks is just the start of things to come. “This is a huge step forward. It really took the support of Hyatt to commit to going all-organic to get this moving forward,” Waters said. “But we have great expectations that other hotels will look at Hyatt as a model and also begin supporting local farmers. This will be the lab test, but we really think we can drive change.”
Waters has developed a seasonal menu which will feature produce and products that are sourced locally, recreating her vision of “seeing how local food can come from the places nearby.” The current “For Kids By Kids” menu, which is being launched this week, features three courses, a plate of veggies (romaine lettuce hearts, carrot curls and a radish rose w/ a lemon vinaigrette for dipping), a grilled chicken with pesto sauce, roasted potatoes and cherry tomatoes and for dessert, strawberry and orange slices, served with a sweet juice in a real orange cup. “I never really tested the menu. It was all based on items my daughter really loved and enjoyed growing up,” Waters said. “I think it’s really about engaging children in a hands-on way from an early age, focusing on the education of food and getting them excited about what they are eating.”
The children’s menu was just part of an overall shift for Hyatt, with it’s new philosophy of “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.” “We knew the industry had to make a significant change,” said Susan Terry, Vice President of Culinary Operations for Hyatt. “I think working with Alice and making a commitment to her philosophy can really lead the industry in a whole new direction.”
Waters said it’s all about “deconstructing items,” making adult food appropriately proportionate for children and letting them discover how delicious food can be. She also hopes the kid’s menu is just the beginning. “I think this is allowing a lot of the teams from the different properties a chance to meet with local farmers and find out about the produce that is available to them. Ultimately, I would love to have the whole menu at all Hyatt’s feature locally sourced products.”
And she’s not stopping with just Hyatt. Waters said she is very open to working with other corporations, whether it’s hotels, stores or supermarkets, to get them to “believe in this philosophy.” “I really want it to be a sense of local. The shipping of food around the world needs to stop. We need to continue to explore a system where we can get food from small farms into hotels and markets and have that integration between kitchen and garden.”
A true pioneer, Waters is hoping to change the way kids eat and think about food, one step at a time. You can learn more about what Waters is doing both locally in Berkeley and across the country through the Edible Schoolyard Project here.