Alternatives to the globalized food system have been gaining momentum in the U.S. since the 1970s. While scholarship has widely covered the potential and faults of direct agricultural markets, focusing on farms, farmers markets, and CSAs, few studies explore the impact of restaurants in alternative food networks. This research traces the impact of 50 years of intentionally local sourcing to uncover the magnitude of farm-to-restaurant enterprises. With the leadership of acclaimed chef Alice Waters, Chez Panisse, established in Berkeley, CA in 1971, is thought to have driven a “food revolution” in California and pioneered the California Cuisine movement. Their open kitchen approach encourages close ties between chefs and customers, and between chefs and farmers. Since its establishment, the restaurant’s menus have been based on regional, seasonal ingredients. By analyzing historical data on the network of farms that have been supplying to the restaurant, we map the expansion of social ties and related acreages impacted by this value-based enterprise over time. Through qualitative analysis with semi-structured interviews, we explore the magnitude and the impact that the network has had on where, what, and how food has been produced over time. This research informs the sociology of economic markets and social movements more broadly. With this research, we extend the theory of social embeddedness to unearth the role of social networks in alternative food markets, and show how Chez Panisse has cultivated a movement with a palate for agroecological, and caring forms of food production and consumption that shape landscapes of production.
Sasha Pesci is originally from Mendoza, Argentina and is currently a Master's student in Geography at the University of California, Davis. She is broadly interested in the potential of food movements and social networks in fostering agroecological, caring forms of food production and distribution. Informed by the theory of social embeddedness, her current research explores the role of close social ties in direct sales from farms to restaurants in changing where, what, and how food is produced.