How does Alice Waters create her menus at Chez Panisse?
I think everybody does it in a different way. I think we’ve all come to realize that you can dream up a meal, but if you don’t have the ingredients, it can’t be accomplished the way you have in mind. So I always begin with the ingredients—always. I want to know what’s exactly in season. What could be picked that morning and brought to the restaurant. What can be taken out of the sea and brought to me. I mean, it’s about aliveness. So that’s where I begin.
Then I want all the dishes to tie together in some way. I fall back a lot on traditional combinations of food. I always think of lamb with beans first. And then I think of other things with lamb and beans. And I sort of embroider on that. I’m looking for texture and color. I never want anything too sweet at the end. I always liked fruit and cheese and a little bit of sweet. I don’t want a big dessert at the end. I want you to feel full but not too full.