What do chefs cook when there’s no critic or consumer watching? That’s the premise of the new cookbook Chefs’ Fridges, which captures the refrigerators of prominent chefs, and the ingredients held within. In a compilation that’s part recipe reference, part personal essay, part journalistic interview, authors Carrie Soloman and Adrian Moore offer an unprecedented peek inside the kitchens of the Michelin Star-holders and culinary innovators we so admire.
One of them is Alice Waters, America’s farm-to-table pioneer and founder of Edible Schoolyard. In 1971, she opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. It served only organic and locally sourced foods—inspired by her studies in France—and soon sparked a culinary renaissance. Now, serving fresh and sustainable food isn’t a distinction for many restaurants—it’s the expectation.
This is an excerpted Q&A with Waters, along with a look inside her fridge, and a recipe for her garden salad tortillas. Chefs’ Fridges is available now in the US and will be published in the UK on June 11.
Courtesy of Chefs’ Fridges/HarperCollins
There’s lots of green inside your fridge.
And many bottles of wine. The Bandol rosé comes from the domaine of my mentor, Lulu Peyraud, who is now one hundred and one years old. So I have a glass of rosé wine and toast to her every night. I keep a bottle or two in case friends come over.
What about some of the other bottles?
I have lots of gifts; most everything in here was a gift. When we don’t finish a bottle, especially of sweet wine like the Italian Barolo, I love to save it. Sometimes it can moisten fruit compote or it can be drizzled over a cake. It has lots of purposes. I just keep those in the back in case. It’s a beautiful way to keep people in your life every day.
Your refrigerator looks almost like a still life painting! Is there a purpose to the way you organise it?
It’s important that the refrigerator looks beautiful. I think about that all of the time. I don’t want any plastic in here.
What about the overturned bowls that serve as lids?
This technique—it’s desperation. I’m waiting for some glass containers, old ones; I’m waiting for them to arrive. I keep tortillas and cheese inside the bowls, as well as my salad.
What do you always have in your fridge?
I always have greens, cooking greens and other greens. Always. I always have onions, carrots, and celery too, for a mirepoix. Everything is organic. That’s very important to me.
Where do you shop?
There is a farmers market about a block from Chez Panisse and then there is shopping at Chez Panisse! On Saturdays I go to the farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza. I desperately try to not buy too much, even though it is such a temptation. But you can’t really calculate who will come to dinner. Sometimes we have unexpected dinner guests. On Sundays when I’m in town I get the food and we cook together, usually family and friends. We don’t know what we will cook until we start cooking.
Does your daughter, Fanny, live here?
She is in and out.
You have lots of Japanese condiments— do they each have a story?
We have many gifts from Japan. Some I have to taste to know what they are. I don’t even know what it is. Maybe I should taste it [she sips]. It’s sesame oil. We also have a number of hot sauces.
There is quite an important collection of little jars in here.
This is a strange one. It’s a spicy pickle. My friend’s husband David drew a picture on the front of their parrot Ortle. Even though it’s ancient—I can’t throw it out.
And there seem to be lots of jams . . .
I always buy from the farmers—what they make or can in the winter. The things I have the most of are citrus jellies and marmalades. This is sweet quince relish from my tree. Over here is crab apple jelly—our pastry chef made it from crab apples from the Edible Schoolyard garden.
What do you do with leftovers?
I often make simple tacos with leftovers. It’s so easy when you just have a little bit of something.
Do you have a trick for Thanksgiving leftovers?
Yes—I send them home with my guests.
What would we never find in your refrigerator?
I hope you would never find anything that I didn’t know where it came from. I hope that I know about all my food.
What is your guilty pleasure food?
Very bitter dark chocolate and salty organic potato chips.
Courtesy of Chefs’ Fridges/HarperCollins
Organic Garden Salad Tortillas
My salad garden is the inspiration for a delicious lunch: fresh greens folded into a warm tortilla with Monterey jack cheese. I make these differently each time, depending on what is available and what I choose to pick—tender spring lettuces, winter rocket, sweet cucumbers, bittersweet frisée, mint leaves, cilantro sprigs, or sliced radishes. A little slice of leftover roasted meat is good too.
- 8 corn tortillas
- 3 to 4 cups grated Monterey jack cheese 8 cups washed salad greens
- Fresh herbs, such as cilantro and mint
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Sprinkle of salt
- 1 lime, quartered