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Simple Ideas Can Lead To Magical Answers, Say Jose Andrés and Alice Waters

Foodie panelists preach big messages at joint sit-down

Friday’s Food For Thought panel at The Washington Post was packed.
Photo: Kristoffer Tripplaar
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Two culinary greats took the Washington Post’s stage by storm on Friday, October 27, discussing everything from hunger relief efforts in Puerto Rico to Jose Andrés’ memorable tangerine at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse.

Andrés, who just served his two millionth meal in Puerto Rico, says his on-the-ground efforts there with his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, has opened his eyes to the resiliency and hope of mankind.

“My faith in humanity has multiplied by tenfold,” he says, in response to the positive vibes locals are maintaining despite their post-hurricane hardships.

He told a story about two girls in a poor town west of San Juan, who refused to eat their meal until everyone in line got theirs.

“This shows you that in these moments the best of people shows up,” he says.

Waters is dealing with another big tragedy that’s hit home. She teared up talking about the devastating effects of the California wildfires, revealing that her chef at Chez Panisse lost both her house and winery in the recent disaster. “It’s like a war zone,” she says.

Waters, an early advocate of the organic and farm-to-table food movement, just released a new memoir called “Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook.” Tonight at 7 p.m. she’ll be at Busboys and Poets to chat more.

The founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project, which aims to promote an edible education curriculum, says her childhood and passion to create communal meals inspired her revolutionary food ideas.

Here are a few highlights from the morning’s hour-long chat, moderated by Washington Post food anchor Mary Beth Albright:

Starting from scratch: Andrés said his visit to the decades-old Chez Panisse was "the moment I realized the power" of Waters. His first visit to Waters’ homegrown restaurant was nearly 20 years ago, when it was even then difficult to score a table. He still day dreams over the aromas of the simple tangerine and dates he was served for dessert.

Halloween costume ideas: Waters, recanting stories of her childhood, said she once dressed up as a “Queen of the Garden”—complete with an asparagus skirt, pepper bracelets, and a strawberry halo.

Keep it simple: Andrés says the solution to a lot of the world’s problems is relatively “simple”—like instilling nutrition at a young age instead of having to “throw money” at the problem years later in order to battle diabetes and cancers. The key is buying sustainable food, without having to break the bank.

Andrés and Waters on water: The two are adamant about making drinking water more accessible and affordable for all. Andrés notes that, while he loves a good rum and Coke, he doesn’t understand why water still costs more than soda at stores.