As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

I heard an original thinker last night

bourdain-watersI was at the ever-wonderful Connecticut Forum in Hartford.*  The topic was “Food for Thought.”  On stage were three chefs:  Anthony Bourdain (of  his memoir Kitchen Confidential and the TV series No Reservations), Duff Goldman (Ace of Cakes, a big hit on the Food Network) and Alice Waters (Founder of Chez Panisse).

Anthony and Duff are media personalities.  Anthony states, rather charmingly, “I’ve never been an innovator.”  I’m not sure what Duff would say on that topic, but I get the sense that the combination of his endearing personality, big beefy athletic build, and his highly improbable career as a pastry chef is what makes him a big deal.  Not being an innovator either.

aliceBut Alice Waters….oh, that Alice.**

To foodies, she is revered as the first prominent American restauranteur to promote the notion of eating only fresh and locally grown foods.   She created California Cuisine.  More than thirty years later, her “let’s only eat food from healthy sources” aspiration is widely spread and understood, if not widely adopted.

But the soft-spoken and slightly dreamy Alice has been steadily living and POUNDING that message for three decades.  As the familiar words kept coming out of her mouth (getting close to the source of our foods, concern about American fast food culture) I had to keep reminding myself that this was not some copycat idealogue parroting a very familiar and, sadly, tired mantra.  This is the woman who FORMED these ideas.  She is the ORIGINATOR.

It was disconcertingly difficult for me to experience Alice’s ideas that way.  I kept thinking “Yeah yeah yeah, I have heard this all before.”  And then I would stop and think, “Hold on.  This is ALICE.  These are her ideas. and she is presenting them with the same conviction and passion that she did when she created them.”

And I realized, how rare is it for anyone to be in the presence of a truly original thinker.  We forget how fresh and radical those ideas were when they first surfaced.  And how deeply valuable.

(Thanks to The Connecticut Forum for consistently presenting these thinkers, in their 17 year history.

*Photo from Forum event taken by Kathleen Cei, and also presented in this article from the New Haven Advocate.

**Photo of Alice is from the Chez Panisse site…no photographer name is listed there.

10 Responses to “I heard an original thinker last night”

  1. Claire

    This struck a chord with me as I just heard another chef, Barbara Lynch of Boston, speak when she was given the Amelia Earhart award by Crittenton Women’s Union. Her advice was more personal, but also very valuable. Maybe the creativity involved in cooking that lets these chefs see through a different lens.

    I’ll have to look into the Connecticut Forum.

    Here is a blog post that my friend Barb Heffner wrote about Barbara Lynch and what she shared at that event:


    Saw a show on Alice Waters and really changed the way i look at food- Now I can not claim to have made the most sweeping changes in the world but farmers markets, our garden, and from the few local farms left in North East Jersey are always on our radar- spotted you on GV’s Crush It page and going through your site now- Looks great so far.


  3. Ruth at CT Forum

    Well said, Jules. Alice Waters has changed the way so many of us think about food, and she continues to do so on a huge scale. It certainly was a treat to have her at The Forum…to hear her message and experience her aura (she has an aura, don’t you think?) in person. Thanks for your kind words about The Forum…hope to see you again next Season!

  4. julespieri

    @KAHUNA–Thanks for checking out Daily Grommet.
    @Ruth…I will be happy to attend future Forums. They really are a wonderful public service and well worth the late night return to Boston. (Yes, Alice does have an aura.)

  5. Kathleen

    Hi Jules, I noticed that you have stolen my photo to go with this blog post on The CT Forum’s “Food for Thought” event, with no credit given whatsoever. This is pretty bad form, not to mention illegal, since all content posted on the New Haven (and Hartford) Advocate web sites is copyright protected. If you wish to direct your readers to my photos of the event, please do so with a link to the article with which they appear on our web site, rather than simply taking one, uncredited, for your own use. Thank you, Kathleen. Here is the link to the photo gallery form which you took the photo, in case you no longer have it handy:

    • julespieri

      Kathleen, Oh man I am embarrassed. I provided the credit, as requested. I am leaving up your comment to remind me to be more careful in the future. Kind of like wearing a Scarlet Letter, publicly.

  6. Morning Glories « Jules Pieri

    […] these plants are grown here.  This is the real deal.  I’m on a quest for real.  Alice Waters.  Hand-written receipts.  I guess it’s the antidote to too many hours spent in front of a […]

  7. Morning Glories « Daily Grommet

    […] these plants are grown here.  This is the real deal.  I’m on a quest for real.  Alice Waters.  Hand-written receipts.  I guess it’s the antidote to too many hours spent in front of a […]


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