How Anthony Bourdain Really Felt About Alice Waters

Anthony Bourdain was known for roasting other celebrity chefs. Whether it was Rachael Ray or Wolfgang puck, Bourdain had a go at just about everyone, according to Thrillist. While he was usually willing to make peace with rival chefs, a few of his feuds endured for years. One of the most famous of his quarrels was with Alice Waters, who famously championed "slow food" (via Britannica).

Waters made her name as the founder of Chez Panisse, a farm-to-table style restaurant whose success brought her into the national spotlight. Following awards and recognition in the nineties from the James Beard Foundation, and with her farm-to-table advocacy work taking off in Berkley, Waters was elected to the Academy of American Arts and Sciences in 2007. 

Bourdain's issue with Waters dates back to around 2009, when Waters made headlines with an open letter to Obama, advising the president-elect on his choice of White House head chef (via Gothamist). Taking exception to the "tone, timing, and content" of the letter, Bourdain reportedly weighed in during an interview in DCist, sharing his thoughts on Waters' letter, Waters herself, and the farm-to-table movement.

Agreeing to Disagree

Bourdain's comments on Waters are attributed to his DCist interview but appear to be missing or omitted from the piece published on the DCist website. However, they have been preserved in a Gothamist article published around the same time. "Alice Waters annoys the living s*** out of me," he's quoted as saying. "We're all in the middle of a recession, like we're all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic." In a subsequent interview, Bourdain softened his tone, acknowledging Waters' achievements and calling Chez Panisse as a "cradle of the food revolution," according to a different Gothamist article. Bourdain and Waters would go on to appear together at a live event at the Connecticut Forum (via YouTube), discussing the farm-to-table movement and seeming to set aside their differences.

As it turned out, though, Bourdain wasn't done with Waters. An entire chapter of his 2010 book, "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook," is dedicated to the Chez Panisse founder, and not in a flattering way (via NPR). Whatever peace Bourdain made with Waters, it wasn't long-lasting. During an interview about "Medium Raw," Bourdain described himself as "ambivalent" about Waters, saying, "I also sympathize or agree with most of her stated desires for the way she'd like the world to be. But she's just so spectacularly tone-deaf and constantly saying the wrong thing that she's a polarizing figure."