The Dish: Chef Alice Waters

There are few people in the world who've been as passionate about locally sourced organic ingredients for as long as Alice Waters. The once picky eater fell in love with food when she went to France.

"It was revelatory for me," Waters said. "They were so you know, very particular about what restaurant you went to, how to eat and what cheese that you eat and I just came back home and wanted to live like the French."

At 19 years old, she stayed in France for one year, but never forgot the taste, and searched for it when she returned home.

"And then we found it at the doorsteps of the organic, local farmers," Waters said.

When Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971, the daily menu was dictated by what farmers had in season. It was the start of the farm-to-table movement in America, at a time when most restaurants were serving frozen and canned vegetables.

Waters said even farmers thought she was crazy, but her conviction was unyielding. It came from the free speech movement in Berkeley.

"I thought that I could do anything I wanted to do. I just had to be determined enough to do it," Waters said.

With that willpower she learned how to cook, all from a cookbook.

While the menu has changed every night for the past 40 years at Chez Panisse, the core principles remain the same -- locally sourced meat and produce picked at the peak of season. Every dish also has to pass a chef's tasting.

If the natural flavors aren't highlighted properly, the dish won't be served.

As the far to table movement spread across the nation, Waters gained national attention. While she was applauded for her culinary innovations -- like bringing the mesclun salad to America -- she was also sharply criticized by some, who said her obsession for organic was elitist.

"I do think of myself as an absolutist. I think of myself as an idealist," Waters responded to the critics. "And I think of myself as always trying to do it better than we did it before. I am uncompromising about certain things. About feeding children real food."

Her passion for changing how kids eat led to the Edible School Yard project, which allows public school students to grow and harvest vegetables.

The project has launched 5,000 working gardens across the country, including one that was transformed from a parking lot.

"It's an education of the senses. They're smelling, they're tasting, they're listening. They see," Waters said. "And when those pathways to our mind are opened up, the information comes in quicker."

In addition to growing the vegetables, students are taught how to prepare and cook them as part of their curriculum.

"And I think this is a kind of essential education that every child on this planet needs to have for our survival," Waters said. "I think the truth of 20 years working in this school is that when they grow and they cook it, they all want to eat it."

To date, Waters has written eight cookbooks and influenced top-tier chefs like Jeremiah Tower, Jonathon Waxman, Paul Bertolli and pastry chef Claire Petak. Despite all her success, Waters has not expanded beyond her one Berkeley restaurant.

"I'm tempted a few times, but then no. I don't think I'd like driving around from one restaurant to another or flying to another restaurant where I didn't know anybody," Waters said.

While she never expected any of the fame, Waters predicted Americans would follow her.

"When you talk about food, you light up. And it's -- after how many years -- still there for you?" Nair asked.

"Well, I think, again, nature is endlessly beautiful," Waters said.