Go Ask Alice

Alice Waters Involved in New SFMOMA Restaurant? [Updated]

Photo: Courtesy of Chez Panisse

Fresh on the heels of the news that the Lady Waters was partnering with Hyatt Hotels to create a new, organic kids’ menu, we hear from her today via an interview with Elle Décor that she’s got an upcoming museum restaurant up her sleeve. “I’ve always wanted to do a restaurant in a museum,” says Waters. “There are a couple of possibilities on the horizon. For now, that’s all I can say.” The Berkeley Museum was the first thing that came to our minds, since it’s right near Chez Panisse and was the site of the restaurant’s 40th anniversary shindig last summer. But we contacted the museum and their rep told us nope, they’re happy with their current restaurant tenant Babette and they “hope and anticipate they will remain in the space for a very long time.” Well, that only leaves one other major local possibility…

SFMOMA is undergoing a massive expansion starting next year which will entail a full closure of the museum for the better part of three years. Starting in early June 2013, the current museum will close and begin a lengthy series of “collaborative and traveling museum exhibitions, site-specific installations, and neighborhood festivals.” It stands to reason that with the square footage of the museum practically tripling, they may be considering some higher profile food tenants in the new museum when it reopens in 2016. The existing lobby on Third Street is supposed to be getting some expanded food and retail spaces, and we have to wonder if the museum project Ms. Waters is hinting at might not be part of that. Having a high-profile, Bay Area-associated restaurateur like Waters would be a good move for the museum, which has never put much focus on its humble, street-level café, and it would give the museum a restaurant that was potentially as noteworthy as The Modern at New York’s MoMA.

Waters has been reluctant over the years to expand her brand to other restaurants beyond Chez Panisse and the recently shuttered Café Fanny, focusing instead on writing books and creating her Edible Schoolyard Project. She implied in the Wall Street Journal in 2010 that she’d been offered chances to clone the restaurant elsewhere, saying, “If someone asked me to go to Arizona, I’d open a Mexican restaurant. But they want Chez Panisse there.” But helping put together a menu and concept for a local museum of the caliber of the SFMOMA sounds right up her alley, and the timing of this hint is interesting to say the least.

SFMOMA’s press office was not available for comment today, but we’ll update you when they are.

Update: SFMOMA’s rep Peter Denny says that the museum has not, as far as he knows, talked to Alice about their expansion plans. “We haven’t started the process for that part of our expansion yet, so there are really no details to share about that.”

Alice Waters on Natural Design [Elle Decor via Eater]
Earlier: Alice Waters Partners with Hyatt on Organic Kids’ Menu [KQED]
Our Expansion [SFMOMA]

Alice Waters Involved in New SFMOMA Restaurant? [Updated]