My Chez Panisse Experience

June 23rd, 2011  | Category: Restaurants, Travel

Chez Panisse

Two years before opening Chez Panisse, Alice Waters, together with her friend from the Montessori Centre, started a journey from London and ended up in a remote village in Turkey. In the middle of nowhere, they ran out of gas and asked for help from a big-eyed boy. The boy mimed there wasn’t any gas left to pump and when they asked for food, this time he led them to his house. He built a fire out of pine cones, put on a teapot and came back with a tiny piece of cheese, which he then cut into microscopic portions before serving them.

Alice, realizing that the big-eyed boy has given them everything he has without expecting anything in return, was deeply moved. In an essay she contributed to a collection called “The Kindness of Strangers” by Don George, she recounts the incident as “A small miracle of trust, and a lesson in hospitality that changed my life forever*.”

40 years have passed and this time around, another big-eyed boy from Turkey had dinner at Alice’s restaurant.

She didn’t offer me any cheese or gave me everything she had, but what she did give was a feast to remember.

Chez Panisse Kitchen 2

Hugged by the shadow of a gigantic Bunya pine above, Chez Panisse stands on Shattuck Avenue like it has been there forever.

Actually, it has been there forever. This year, Alice’s restaurant, which she named after the generous and good-hearted character Panisse from Marcel Pagnol’s Marius/Fanny/César trilogy, celebrates its 40th year.

Chez Panisse has been feeding, inspiring and bringing together people for four decades. And how rare it is to say that even though not much has changed since they first opened their doors, the restaurant always kept evolving.

Rare, but not surprising. What Alice and a handful of idealist friends yearned to offer at Chez Panisse simply guaranteed it: “…the simple wholesome food of Provence, the atmosphere of tolerant camaraderie and great lifelong friendships, and a respect both for the old folks and their pleasures and for the young and their passion*.”

Chez Panisse Kitchen

This was my first Chez Panisse experience and describing myself as “excited” would be an understatement. The excitement built up as the days got closer and was at peak when the host walked us to our table.

Or should I say “THE TABLE”? He seated us at the table closest to the kitchen. Most people might think that a table adjacent to the kitchen is the worst table in the house, as it is almost always noisy, hot and exposed to the occasional smell of something burning, but when that table is at Chez Panisse, it is like sitting next to the director while he rules the set.

Chez Panisse Kitchen 3

A set that is equipped with every single Mauviel ever manufactured.

Chez Panisse Restaurant has two head chefs, Jean-Pierre Moulle and David Tanis, who each run the kitchen for 6 months of the year. During our visit, it was Jean-Pierre Moulle’s turn.

One of my biggest dreams was to eat David Tanis’ food, who is also the author of two of the most beautiful cookbooks I own, but according to this article 2012 is his last year at Chez Panisse. This summer will be his last 6 months. It is a very slim chance that I’ll be able to make it, but I thought you’d like to know. The good news is he now has a new column, which will run weekly in the Dining section of The New York Times and his third book is in the works.

Chez Panisse Jean-Pierre 2

At first glance, Jean-Pierre Moulle might look like a grumpy commandant, but he is exactly the opposite. He orchestrates the kitchen with his eyes. I have never seen such a calm restaurant kitchen in my life.

Chez Panisse Kitchen 4

As soon as one finishes plating the salad, the other one turns around and drizzles the crème fraiche.

This harmony is no surprise either; most of the staff has been working with Alice for many years.

The second the plates are ready, they are rushed to the tables. Then the waiter comes back, crosses off the table number on the black board and puts it down for the following course on the corresponding column.

After watching the traffic in the kitchen for a while, I realized that Chez Panisse owes the serenity in its kitchen in part to this black board.

Chez Panisse Jean-Pierre 3

There are four columns on the board, each one corresponding to the number of dishes served that night. Table numbers are crossed off once they’re served and moved on to the next column. It is displayed right where everyone can see it, so the kitchen staff knows at all times exactly when each dish should be ready and work on their timing accordingly.

The restaurant downstairs serves a weekly menu that changes daily. It is dictated by and completely reflects whatever is in season. Needless to say, everything they source is locally, organically, and sustainably grown.

Chez Panisse Menu

Above are the menus (vegetarian on the left), both covers illustrated by Patricia Curtan.

Chez Panisse Bread

This small dish of butter alone can summarize the Chez Panisse mentality. If I’m not mistaken, the butter served at Chez Panisse is coming from the Straus Family Creamery. Not only they produce some of the best organic milk and dairy products, but also electricity from their own cows’ waste, which is enough for most of the dairy’s energy needs. For me, their commitment to developing sustainable and environmentally-sound farming translates into this: It is impossible to feel guilty as a piece of (amazing) bread smothered in that butter slides down your throat.

Chez Panisse Salad

And now, the first course of the evening: Smoked fish salad with black cod, salmon and crème fraiche.

A mixture of salad leaves on top of pieces of salty and smoky fish, perfectly balanced with a generous drizzle of cool, creamy and rich crème fraiche.

Chez Panisse Salad Plating

We were very lucky to have been there when the California asparagus was in season. The green asparagus soup with a chanterelle custard in the middle was topped with thinly sliced and lightly sauteed asparagus heads.

Chez Panisse Asparagus Soup

When you’re eating at Chez Panisse, it’s no surprise that it will be the “best asparagus soup”, “best vacherin” or “best anything” you’ve ever tasted. There is an army of idealist and creative (and calm, I must add) people behind these dishes, but that is not the only reason why Chez Panisse is one of the greatest restaurants on earth.

Days before I called to make a reservation, I started panicking. Like most food bloggers out there, over the years, I’ve developed this obsession to document every piece of food I eat when I’m traveling. I can’t imagine not taking photos at Chez Panisse, and even though it is such a beloved restaurant, I’ve come across only a few blog posts with photos taken there, so I couldn’t be sure if they allowed photography. And regardless of their policy, as with every restaurant I go to with my camera (and those giant lenses), I felt self-conscious before I even step foot in the restaurant.

Also, what if they changed their policy? There was only one way to know: to just call and ask, which I almost always do whenever I’m planning on taking photos.

In the case of Chez Panisse, before I made the call, I drafted a speech. I’m not kidding. I took out a piece of paper and wrote it down. Then dialed the number. Apparently, in order to minimize my chances of hearing a “No”, I’ve drafted such a complicated and long sentence that the lady on the other side of the line had to interrupt my monologue and told me it was perfectly OK.

And you’d think that would make me comfortable and erase every question mark I have… OK, maybe she said it’s fine, but does she know that I’ll be taking multiple shots of every plate put in front of me, harass my friend before each course to try a different angle and possibly take some blind shots from up above just in case? Would she have said “fine” if she had known? Plus, do I have a recording? Something on paper? No. And I’m definitely not going to argue with a waiter at Chez Panisse. Long story short, I still had my doubts.

Fast forward three weeks and we’re at Chez Panisse, enjoying the smoked fish salad. My giant camera is hidden under the napkin to my left and my friend tells me I’ve draped it perfectly and assured me twice that no one in the world can tell there’s a camera underneath. I watch the waiters with one eye, and as soon as they attend to other tables, I take it out, snap a couple of shots and put it back under the napkin.

But not so fast. Our waiter, Gianni, notices the camera and tells me to feel free to take photos in the kitchen as well. And when I ask if he’s sure that I wouldn’t be distracting the cooks, he jokingly says “Don’t worry… The worst they’ll do is chase after you with a knife!” “Well, if he’s sure,” I say to myself, stand up, turn around, take a few photos of the prep work and sit back down.

As you can guess, I’m still not comfortable with the idea to go inside the kitchen and snap away freely. Actually, the only way that would have been possible would be if they had handed me a letter, stating something like: “At Chez Panisse’s kitchen downstairs, Cenk Sönmezsoy can take as many photos as he likes. We guarantee that we won’t get mad, throw angry looks or remove him from the premises before he finishes his vacherin.” On Chez Panisse letterhead, of course.

Chez Panisse Gianni

And that’s almost what really happened next. No, I didn’t receive a letter, but Gianni came by our table again, looked at me disapprovingly and said “You’re way too shy. This isn’t working. Come with me. I’ll give you a personal tour.”

Once I break my chains, I start snapping away frantically.

Chez Panisse Grill 2

No wonder why no one is bothered by my presence.

Chez Panisse Plating 2

It is as if everyone working at Chez Panisse’s kitchen was born with knowing what to do at that very moment. No one and nothing can break their flow.

Chez Panisse Kitchen 5

Chez Panisse Jean Pierre

The traffic in the kitchen is so much like their food: Not a single unnecessary move.

Chez Panisse Kitchen 6

Everything happening so fast and so freely.

Chez Panisse Kitchen 7

After a while the traffic in the kitchen gets heavy so I hide in a section behind the black board and start watching. A minute later, Gianni comes by, asks why I hid there and takes me to show the cold room. He is absolutely adorable. Without him, my Chez Panisse experience would have never been the same.

Chez Panisse Cold Room

Freshly plucked vegetables and greens, all labeled and stacked up high. In another room are the pigs. Chez Panisse is devoted to supporting local farmers, and buying the animal as a whole not only supports the sustainability of the local farm businesses, but also reduce environmental waste.

Chez Panisse Striped Bass

Right after the tour, I go back to the table to enjoy the main course. I’ll never forget the sea bass I ate at La Maison de la Truffe in Paris. This striped bass was even better. It came with sauteed green garlic, red peppers and shallots sweetened with Banyuls wine and served with Asian greens (probably yu choy) with ginger and roasted new onion and potatoes.

As soon as I finish the main course, Gianni comes back again to give me a tour of the cafe upstairs.

Chez Panisse Cafe

I am standing in front of the salad station where once Janet Fletcher prepared countless goat cheese salads.

Chez Panisse Cafe 2

The Cafe uses the same local and organic produce, but serves completely different dishes. It has a kitchen on its own, together with a wood-fire pizza oven and grill stations, but they also get help from the kitchen downstairs.

Chez Panisse Cafe 4

Chez Panisse Cafe 3

An orange and black olive salad with green garlic and olive oil. What an intriguing combination.

Chez Panisse Orange Salad

I rush the photos upstairs, because I’ve been waiting for the dessert course ever since I called to make a reservation.

Chez Panisse Roasted Pineapples 2

Chez Panisse Tart Dough

And now I’m standing where once David Lebovitz rolled tart doughs.

Chez Panisse Nocino Ice Cream

Right after he’s done with the tart, he starts scraping a mixture, which looks like coffee granita. But I don’t remember a granita in the menu. Is that a surprise? Did they somehow learn that ice cream is my favorite thing in the world? A small miracle of trust?

A glance at tomorrow’s menu sheds a light. It is Nocino Granita. For those of you who have never heard of Nocino, it is a dark-colored digestive liquor made with green walnuts and a hint of spice, specific to the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Because of its digestive quality, a granita made with Nocino would be a perfect dessert to finish a meal.

If you’re intrigued, there’s a recipe for homemade Nocino with step by step photos over at Rosetta Costantino’s blog, Calabria from Scratch. You must have heard of her as her book, “My Calabria”, published in November last year, is one of the most beautiful regional cookbooks I’ve ever seen. I have been meaning to do a review with a recipe I had an eye on, but the pressing deadlines of my book have completely wrecked my schedule. I will soon try the Nocino granita though.

To be honest, after realizing it wasn’t for us, begging to taste a spoonful did cross my mind, but the privilege of taking as many photos as I’d like was so generous, I didn’t want push my chances.

Chez Panisse Nocino Ice Cream 2

Right at the next station, the vacherin preparations are on full swing.

Chez Panisse Roasted Pineapples

She removes the trays with roasted pineapples from the oven, and as soon as she tips one over a pot to drain, a whiff of that sweet, caramely roasting juice fills the air, making me weak at the knees.

Chez Panisse Roasted Pineapples 3

Just when I decide it’s time to go back to the table to wait for the vacherin to arrive, I see a stack of plates. They all scream my name.

Chez Panisse Plates

And right next to them is nougat slices resting on a board, ready to be served alongside coffee.

Chez Panisse Nougat

Gianni is my hero. When I arrived at the table to wait for my vacherin, my friend told me that when I rushed upstairs, my sweater fell on the floor  and Gianni, after leaving me upstairs, saw it on his way back, picked it up off the floor, folded it and placed it on my chair. You should have seen it. My sweater looked as if a stylist from Martha Stewart Living folded it for a photo shoot.

As soon as my friend’s story ends, Gianni comes back with the dessert: Coconut sherbet vacherin with roasted pineapple.

Chez Panisse Vacherin

A light and very creamy quenelle of coconut sherbet sitting on top of a thin layer of meringue dotted with coconut flakes alongside a generous serving of roasted pineapples swimming in that out-of-this-world syrup.

As someone who consumes three times more coffee than water, my tastebuds couldn’t believe what they were getting to experience the first time I drank Blue Bottle coffee. We just got out of Cookin! on Divisadero and were standing in front of a cafe on the corner. My friend wanted to go to the bathroom before we hopped on the bus, so we decided to go in. I ordered a coffee and it took ages for the barista to prepare. She placed a paper filter in a cup with a hole on the bottom and poured hot water in a circular motion every other minute until the cup below was full to the brim. A minute later, I took my first sip. The aroma was quite strong, there were no nasty bitter tones and it was the smoothest sip of coffee ever. Right after I learned that they were proudly serving Blue Bottle Coffee, I refused to drink anything else. Call it snobbery if you like, but I had 12 days in San Francisco and I was going to drink the best coffee my money could buy.

Over at Chez Panisse, when I looked at the menu, I wasn’t surprised to read “Blue Bottle Coffee, Chez Panisse blend.”

Chez Panisse Blue Bottle Coffee

Chez Panisse Mignardise

Ever since I got back from San Francisco I’ve been reminiscing about my Chez Panisse experience. Although the 24-hour trip is scary, I can not imagine waiting for another 2257 days before my next visit.

Up next is a great ice cream shop nearby… and you know which one.

Chez Panisse Entrance

Chez Panisse Restaurant & Café
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709-1516

The weekly restaurant menu served downstairs is published every Saturday on Chez Panisse’s website. For more information, please visit:

websiterestaurant menucafe menumap

Reservation (Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM – 9:30 PM)
Restaurant reservations: +1 (510) 548-5525
Café reservations: +1 (510) 548-5049

* Source: “Alice Waters and Chez Panisse” by Thomas McNamee.

Oh and I almost forgot… Great news!

Saveur Brownie

My Brownies with Hazelnut Butter and Chocolate Lace (aka Brownie Wears Lace) was named “Best Original Baking and Desserts Recipe” by Saveur magazine in their Best Food Blog Awards this year!

Many thanks to Saveur for nominating and YOU for voting. Congratulations to all the other winners (see the complete list here).

Never miss a recipe. Subscribe via email.


  1. 1 - Michelle Benoit (ChocolateCentral) on June 23rd, 2011

    I’ve been hearing about this place for at least 25 years, ever since I started getting passionate about food. Now after reading about your experience I’m adding it to my Bucket List. Thank you for such a detailed reaccounting of your experience with so many photos. I felt like I was right there at your side.

  2. 2 - Genie Kerr on June 23rd, 2011

    What a wonderful experience! Thank you for so eloquently sharing it with us..(I could almost taste that roasted pineapple!!)

    Your photos are second to none!

    As always, I envy your job!

    Good work, Cenk!!

  3. 3 - Claudia on June 23rd, 2011

    A fabulous fabulous wonderfully documented visit to an iconic restaurant! Well done, Cenk!

  4. 4 - Sil BsAs on June 23rd, 2011

    What a great post! Magnificent photos and such a nice story… I really, REALLY envy you!!!
    Now I want David’s books, which one would you recommend better?
    Cheers from Argentina and good luck with your book!

  5. 5 - Annie on June 23rd, 2011

    Cenk – I was in San Fran for the first time this past May and also became a Blue Bottle fanatic:

    I agree with you – the snobbery was worth it. My ritual was a Blue Bottle coffee and a treat at Miette, in the Ferry Building. Expensive, worth it and perhaps a good thing that it’s over now. I was getting out of control 🙂

    Gorgeous photos, as always.

  6. 6 - Cenk on June 23rd, 2011

    Michelle, Genie, Claudia, Sil BsAs, Annie – Thanks so much for your kind words. Glad to hear you liked the post and photos.

    Sil BsAs – It is almost impossible to choose between the two, but if I really had to, I’d go with “A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes”, his first one.” rel=”nofollow”>”A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes”, his first one.

  7. 7 - Liz on June 23rd, 2011

    Oh man, this brings me back to my Chez Panisse experience two years ago – the dessert was ice cream made from Turkish apricot kernels (if I remember correctly) and was spectacular (as was the entire meal). Maybe next time I’m in town…

  8. 8 - Maureen on June 24th, 2011

    I feel like I’ve been on holiday after reading this post. It’s magnificent and I’m so glad I read it. Isn’t it wonderful that they welcomed you and your big fat camera?

  9. 9 - Maggie on June 24th, 2011

    Cenk – lovely lovely post as usual. So many great pictures of Chez Panisse, which is one of my favorite restaurants (and alas, which I cannot afford to enjoy very often)…perhaps Sil BsAs was talking about David Lebovitz and not David Tanis?

    Thank you for capturing the magic of Chez Panisse – I recognize the woman pastry chef from when she used to help out at Ici, the wonderful ice cream shop started by other Chez Panisse alums. I hope you had a chance to have some of their ice cream while you were in Berkeley! Is that the one you meant? Working there in college was one of the best jobs I ever had.

  10. 10 - Joy on June 24th, 2011

    What an amazing dining experience! Wonderful photos as well!

    Like you, I would rather be seated close to the kitchen so I can watch the action happen.

  11. 11 - Irvin from Eat the Love on June 24th, 2011

    What a wonderful post about Chez Panisse. Though it is just across the bay in Berkeley, I’ve only had the pleasure of going once, and it was magical. One of these days I will return. Perhaps armed with a camera this time…

    In the meanwhile, next time you are here, do try to visit the other two coffee shops in the holy trinity of SF coffee shops: Blue Bottle, Ritual and Four Barrel. Each are wonderful in their own way and they all have their followers. I’m a Four Barrel fan myself (though I would never turn down a Blue Bottle cup).

  12. 12 - Barbara on June 24th, 2011

    Just found your website through Claudia’s “A seasonal cook in Turkey” and am deeply impressed. This reportage is almost as good as visiting Chez Panisse in person! Thank you for sharing this!

  13. 13 - Clarice on June 24th, 2011

    Chez Panisse is a magical place. One must experience it to believe it. I wish more people in the US would become fans of Alice Waters. She does such wonderful and important work educating children (and adults) about the importance of food and sustainability. As usual, your photos are beautiful!

  14. 14 - Foodtopii on June 25th, 2011

    Chez Panisse holds a special place in my heart – I remember my first visit, expecting nothing short of excellent. Did you visit the cafe or order a pre fixe meal?

  15. 15 - Jessica's Dinner Party on June 25th, 2011

    What a wonderful essay of words and photographs. I’m incredibly jealous of your experience at Chez Panisse. Maybe one day I’ll be able to make it over there!

  16. 16 - Alison Cameron on June 25th, 2011

    Hi! I’m Claudia’s sister and read about your blog in HER blog (Seasonal Cook in Turkey). Great story! Great photos! A great read. My daughter Helen works at Ici, the ice cream store in Berkeley started by one of Alice Waters’ erstwhile pastry chefs. Check it out – the same natural products, handmade with love, changing flavors daily etc. And if you go, say hello to Helen for me!

  17. 17 - Cenk on June 26th, 2011

    Maureen – Wonderful indeed! I would have never imagined going into their cold room with my camera.

    Maggie – Yes, that’s the one I visited.

    Sil BsAs – Did you mean David Lebovitz or David Tanis?

    Irvin from Eat the Love – Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll make sure to visit Four Barrel next time I’m there.

    Barbara – Thanks! Glad you liked it.

    Foodtopii – We ate downstairs at the restaurant.

    Jessica’s Dinner Party – Hope you make it there soon.

    Alison Cameron – Thanks. Right after the dinner at Chez Panisse, we visited Ici and had ice cream. It was incredible.

  18. 18 - Tricia on June 27th, 2011

    Congratulations on being a Saveur Winner! And I love your story and expression of Chez Panisse—gorgeous photos, thoughtful insights, and the way you write and shoot is authentic and generous. Beautiful post!

  19. 19 - Karen on June 27th, 2011

    What a wonderful post; I very much felt like I was right there with you in the dining room. My few experiences eating at Chez Panisse are vivid in my mind, but I have no lovely photos to accompany them. So thank you! Cheers, Karen

    PS – I’m pretty sure Patricia Curtan is the artist who designed the menu illustrations….

  20. 20 - Marie (Food Nouveau) on June 27th, 2011

    What an amazing walkthrough your dinner at this legendary restaurant! The colorful plates look amazing, I was wondering: did you have a tasting menu or did you go à la carte? I love the fact they have a full vegetarian menu… I would feel tempted to try it even though I’m not a vegetarian just because I know they’re probably amongst the best in the world to cook with vegetables!

    Also, the kitchen leaves me speechless. It’s so warm and inviting, it looks like you ventured into a friend’s kitchen! No wonder the staff all look so relaxed and in sync. And those dessert plates… It seems like Chez Panisse really does live up to even the highest expectations. I hope I’ll make it there someday!

  21. 21 - yummy supper on June 27th, 2011

    I am so happy to have found your blog while at the same time having the chance to joyously explore the city you call home!
    It is a wonderful small world experience to be reading about your time at Chez Panisee (my hometown favorite!) while fully enjoying every bite I eat here in Istanbul. Thank you again for your wonderful suggestions. And I love your post on Chez – it makes me happily homesick.

  22. 22 - Brooke on June 27th, 2011

    Thid is An incredible round up of your experience. I especially appreciAte your insights and observations on service. Thank you for reminding me how well taken care of the guests are when they go to Chez Panisse!

    Oh, and congrats on the Saveur award! Yay!

  23. 23 - Dianne Jacob on June 27th, 2011

    What a treat to eat downstairs at the restaurant, and to be given the royal treatment. There is nothing like eating at Chez Panisse. I remember every meal.

    The restaurant is only 15 minutes from my house. Next time you’re in town, let’s go to the Cheese Board across the street, okay? That’s another Berkeley tradition.

    And congrats on your award. Well deserved.

  24. 24 - Cenk on June 27th, 2011

    Tricia – Thanks! Glad you liked it.

    Karen – Many thanks for the correction!

    marie – Aren’t they lovely? I call them grandma plates 🙂 We had the fixed menu downstairs. Hope you make it there soon.

    Erin – Thank you. And you’re welcome – I am so happy that you’re having a great time in Istanbul. Can’t wait to read about your adventures.

    Brooke – Thanks. Yay!

    Dianne Jacob – Absolutely okay! A couple of friends told me it was a must-visit, but we didn’t want to visit Chez Panisse on a full stomach.

  25. 25 - angela@spinachtiger on June 27th, 2011

    Thank you for giving me something I’ve wanted ever since I read the Chez Panisse book. I could kick myself now for not having eaten there the last few times I was out in Bay area. You describe everything just as I had imagined.

  26. 26 - carolg on June 27th, 2011

    It’s been so long since I’ve been to chez Panisees and then it was as the guest of one of the chefs.. Love reading your recap and the photos are superb.

  27. 27 - Su-Lin on June 28th, 2011

    What a fabulous experience you had there! Gianni sounds like the best waiter ever.

    Also, congratulations on your Saveur award!

  28. 28 - yasmin on June 28th, 2011

    can’t imagine a more thorough write-up about the experience. i always wanted to go but never more than now.

    congrats on your win! what a tempting dessert and i’m not the biggest fan of sweet things. i am bookmarking that for sure.

  29. 29 - Giovanna Zivny on June 28th, 2011

    What a beautiful and generous post. But what ice creams did you taste at Ici?

  30. 30 - Jane Stillwater on June 29th, 2011

    I used to hate my birthdays but now I just LOVE them! Why? Because now I save up all year and go to Chez Panisse on my BD. Don’t know what I’ll do when my birthday falls on a Sunday.

    Was gonna write a review of my next (July 1) BD dinner there but after reading yours? You’ve said it all! Good job.

  31. 31 - The Quest For Zest on June 29th, 2011

    Wonderful write up, and I loved your photos. Thanks for sharing this with those of us unlikely to ever get there. :^)

  32. 32 - Rachelino on July 2nd, 2011

    Cenk–I love your write up of Chez Panisse. It takes me right back to my anniversary last year when we had a wonderful meal in the downstairs dining room at Chez Panisse. I think you captured one of its unique qualities, especially in this day of the industrial urban chic restaurant, with the sounds from open kitchens and diners clanging against all the hard surfaces in a vast open space. Chez Panisse is an incredibly warm, inviting and CALM place. It’s buzzing with happy, productive energy – it is not quiet or dead feeling – it just radiates warmth and welcome. I was also ushered into the kitchen and invited to look at the pastry station and whatever else I wanted, only I didn’t have the guts to bring a camera. Thank you for having those guts for me!

  33. 33 - Bunny from Couleur Nature on July 6th, 2011

    I’m so envious – I’ve wanted to go to Chez Panisse for years! Great photos as well, and the story to go with your visit was totally engaging. Thanks for a great afternoon read.

  34. 34 - Pelin on July 14th, 2011

    Great documentation with great eye.Well done…I had studied at UC Berkeley almost 2 decades ago…now there is another reason why i should revisit..

  35. 35 - Jane Stillwater on July 15th, 2011

    After reading your article, I was more prepared to be observant and know what to look for when I went.

    Here’s my own blog post on what my dining experience was like there: (link)

  36. 36 - Frances Ren Huang on July 29th, 2011

    I stumble upon this and very grateful I did. Took me back to my first Chez Panisse experience when I was 18- how much I’ve missed it. Love your blog, I’m a fan now.

  37. 37 - Astere on August 4th, 2011

    I have looked at many other blogs, and yours is by far my favorite. The recipes all look so enticing, and the photography is superb!I am new at this blogging thing, but you’re very inspiring. You got another fan!

  38. 38 - FotnotsMaja on August 9th, 2011

    Lovely pictures!
    Really nice blogg!

  39. 39 - lynn @ the actors diet on August 14th, 2011

    i am SO BUMMED i never went.

  40. 40 - megan on August 20th, 2011

    I have had the pleasure to live in Turkey on and off for about 8 years. Sometimes my friends tease me that I sound like the tourist board because I’m always going on about the wealth of food, history, and especially the hospitality. I’ve often been moved nearly to tears by the selflessness of humble people with little to spare and it certainly makes me feel that something is missing when I return to the states. Thanks for reviving those memories. (also, the pictures are fabulous!)

  41. 41 - Tatiana on September 6th, 2011

    No pressure at all but,where are you??
    Miss come here and find new post e beautiful pictures!

  42. 42 - ChiChi Fargo on September 16th, 2011

    I came back to re-read this today. So wonderful. Yes, my best dining experience in the USA was at Chez Panisse. First a solo lunch in the cafe when I was in San Francisco on business. Then dinner downstairs with Nick when we were both there on business. Memorable experiences both. Your enthusiasm and your beautiful photos and text remind me just how special a place this is.

  43. 43 - Jen on September 30th, 2011

    I loved reading your Chez Panisse experience. I instantly thought of David Lebovitz! Thank you for your post. I felt like I was visiting right along with you!

  44. 44 - Lien Pham on December 15th, 2011

    you make me want to go back to Chez Panisse asap … i feel sooo connected with the way you take picture of the food, ie, the camera under the napkin :-)))

  45. 45 - Siri on December 16th, 2011

    Your post literally transported me into Chez Panisse (which is on my wishlist for ever). Thanks for such a lovely photo journey. Felt I was right along with you.


  46. 46 - Sally Hennessey on December 31st, 2011

    My 3rd Grader just did a “book report” on Chez Panisse using the cookbook FANNY AT CHEZ PANISSE (by Alice Waters) and her cooking demo was the Gingersnap cookies which were so freaking good, thin and crispy and buttery – it made me want to visit – and now. after reading your article I’m planning a family trip – your photos were fantastic and I love that you describe little moments like hiding your camera under your napkin – your writing comes alive because of those reality moments! Thank you!

  47. 47 - Arthur in the Garden! on March 13th, 2012

    Love it!

  48. 48 - kathryn duoak on April 3rd, 2012

    Thank you for this charming and personal tour of this special place with it’s history of great food, people, books and memories.

  49. 49 - mazz on April 14th, 2012

    thank you for making your personal visit to
    chez panisse so vital with details; that it was as if i had had the pleasure of being there too

  50. 50 - Dilek Kadıoğlu on April 15th, 2012

    Dear Cenk,
    I see that you entered the blog competition. I voted for you. I hope you win the contest.


  51. 51 - Jean | Delightful Repast on April 28th, 2012

    I’ve known of Chez Panisse since its beginning (I was a foodie child!), longed to go there and yet have not yet done so. Hmm … can’t understand that really. Not sure how I came across your wonderful blog, but I’m so glad I did. This post has made me feel as if I’ve actually been there after all. I plan to come back at the end of the day and reread it in its entirety. Thank you!

  52. 52 - aslıhan on May 4th, 2012


  53. 53 - Juhie on May 4th, 2012

    Oh my gosh, they seem so nice! I’m glad you had such a great experience, and I totally understand being shy about photography in such a restaurant. They handled it extremely well. 🙂

  54. 54 - Brooke @ Food Woolf on May 12th, 2012

    A beautiful tribute and an incredible piece of writing. Congratulations on winning the Saveur writing award. Your love of food and the restaurant world shows through in every line.

  55. 55 - Turismo on May 28th, 2012

    Excellente blog, greetings

  56. 56 - Adriana on June 26th, 2012

    A fascinating piece of writing and stunning photographs, no wonder your blog was nominated:) Congratulations! The Chez Panisse kitchen looks so unbelievably organised and everyone so calm:)

  57. 57 - Cafetería on July 14th, 2012

    Great post , nice blog. Thanks

  58. 58 - Elif on August 15th, 2012

    Great article, thanks for sharing. Congratulations on this very authentic piece of writing with awesome photos! Your writing is very powerful since you know and care about cooking.

  59. 59 - Margaux on August 25th, 2012

    Was just browsing food blogs and stumbled upon this through Saveur. I love this award winning piece. I felt your enthusiasm all throughout the article. Your references show your true passion for food. Lovely photos too! Even in restaurant light. I am now a fan.

  60. 60 - Eric on November 24th, 2012

    I also found your blog through Saveur…and congrats on the “Best Piece of Culinary Writing” award 🙂

  61. 61 - Lama Haddadin on January 14th, 2013

    It would really mean a lot to me if you take a look at my blog & give me your opinion. I’m an absolute fan!

  62. 62 - Cenk on January 23rd, 2013

    Lama – Looks great! Best of luck.

  63. 63 - Life and Larder blogger on April 18th, 2013

    Congrats on the Saveur nominations and award. It was very well deserved. I had read your article some time back (before nomination). I am glad you had the balls to ask them could you photograph – as they are beautiful shots, but it is also a great read. Their kitchen is so beautiful, I want to cook in it… (and had saved some of your photos as inspiration for my kitchen re-build which will be semi commercial.

    I have dabbled in blogging for a few years, but have recently decided to get more serious about it. Here is hoping I can put out some quality one day, like this piece. (All tips appreciated)

  64. 64 - Cenk on April 18th, 2013

    Life and Larder blogger – Thank you!

  65. 65 - living a meaningful life on May 27th, 2013

    Your way of telling everything in this piece of writing is really
    fastidious, all be capable of simply understand it, Thanks a lot.

  66. 66 - Jane Stillwater on June 13th, 2013

    Chez Panisse is supposed to open on June 24, 2013, but when I walked by there yesterday, it looked like they were still seriously working on it. I have a reservation for July 1, my birthday. I may have to picnic on the front steps however — but hopefully not.

    Here’s my own recent blog post on CP’s re-opening:

  67. 67 - jose on December 23rd, 2013

    Awesome post!. The pictures say it all!Food for the eyes!

  68. 68 - Chef Darren on March 5th, 2014

    I totally enjoyed reading your post about Chez Panisse. As a chef, this was one of my most enjoyable cooking experience in a professional kitchen. The level of care and thought into the food and every dish was just incredible. The focus was certainly on getting the best product and how to maximize those flavors with over thinking it and end-up masking those flavors. I have fond memories…

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