Cultivating a palate: contested embeddedness and changing food geographies in the 50 years of Chez Panisse

Authors: Sasha Pesci*, University of California - Davis
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Rural Geography, Land Use
Keywords: food systems, agriculture, direct agriculture markets, embeddedness, land use
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Few studies explore the impact of value-based restaurants in alternative food networks. The acclaimed Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse, has been attributed with pioneering the farm-to-table model and the California cuisine, with ripple effects in the organic movement more broadly. Since its establishment, the restaurant’s menus have been based on regional, seasonal ingredients. Stemming from Hinrichs’ (2000) analysis of the embeddedness in the close social ties of direct agriculture markets this study asks: to what extent are the relationships that develop in the direct sales from farms to Chez Panisse geographically and socially embedded? And how have these relationships changed farmers’ land management? To answer, we have collected historical data on 150 farms that have supplied to Chez Panisse since it was established in 1973. We employ geo-social network visualization to understand the evolution of market ties over time. Through qualitative analysis with semi-structured interviews and archival document review, we explored the temporal and geographical interplay of social embeddedness between farms and the restaurant. We find that, while the social media spotlight concerning local food systems is often trained on Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, other often-overlooked actors in alternative food network scholarship may play as large a role in transforming the food system. Further, the evolution of relationships in the network exemplify a contested geographic and social embeddedness. We argue that the interplay of embeddedness and instrumentalism has cultivated a palate for so-called high quality products; which has in turn contributed to farming transitions toward agroecological practices.

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