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Edible Schoolyard NYC’s Spring Benefit Gathered the City’s Best Chefs to Honor Alice Waters

Ella Riley-Adams
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Edible Schoolyard NYC’s Spring Benefit Gathered the City’s Best Chefs to Honor Alice Waters

“Where would we be without Alice?” The question echoed during Monday night’s benefit dinner for Edible Schoolyard NYC, underlining Alice Waters’s pioneering efforts to support sustainable food systems.

Edible Schoolyard NYC’s Spring Benefit Gathered the City’s Best Chefs to Honor Alice Waters

Alice Waters and Bette Midler

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

Martha Stewart

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

Carolyn Murphy

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

Amy Astley

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

Athena Calderone

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

Waris Ahluwalia

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

A dish served at dinner.

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

Kyle Hotchkiss Carone and Claire Distenfeld Olshan

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

Tamar Adler

Photo: Yvonne Tnt / BFA.com

“Where would we be without Alice?” The question echoed during Monday night’s benefit dinner for Edible Schoolyard NYC, underlining Alice Waters’s pioneering efforts to support sustainable food systems. Luckily, no one had to answer, because she was there, at 180 Maiden Lane, to champion the Edible Schoolyard movement she began in Berkeley, California, with a mission of bringing gardens and kitchen education to public schools. Waters calls it a “delicious revolution,” and the evening represented it well: Each table was served a four-course dinner by an all-star group of chefs curated by David Chang, from Daniela Soto-Innes of Cosme and Atla to Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food and Melissa Rodriguez of Del Posto.

Guests including cochair Stefano Tonchi, Martha Stewart, and Ulla Johnson gathered amid greenery arranged for the event by Bronson van Wyck, while the evening’s speakers took to a stage with a backdrop that featured bunches of carrots and radishes. The evening’s Ode to Alice began with Edible Schoolyard NYC board chair John Lyons, who explained that beyond being a brilliant restauranteur and tireless activist, Waters has run “an academy” of sorts, informing and nurturing chef talent that has since spread out across the globe. Then, two seventh-grade students, Jennifer Cabrera and Shanya Dixon, spoke about their experiences in the “green room,” a garden and cooking space at their school made possible by Edible Schoolyard NYC. “If everyone had a green room, we would all be healthier, more active, and would have a happier world,” Cabrera concluded.

Finally, Bette Midler introduced Waters as her “fellow rabble-rouser” and a kindred spirit, given the two began their nonprofits at a similar time. (Midler founded the New York Restoration Project in 1995.) When Waters took the stage, she shared the sentiment: “I always felt that if the two of us got together, we could pick up every piece of trash in New York City.” She proceeded to outline her vision for the future of Edible Schoolyard, and sustainable food writ large, with its key tenets of buying directly from farmers, providing a free sustainable school lunch at every public school in the country, and establishing routines to reduce waste. “What if every school in the United States took all of their food scraps back to the farm?”

The benefit’s live auction raised funds that will help to realize this future. Generous patrons bid on foodie fantasies like a “Skip the Line” lot that gave the winning bidder the privilege of reservations at 13 exclusive restaurants including Noma, River Cafe, and Chez Panisse. An “Ice Cream Toast” lot caused a bidding frenzy with its offer of Morgenstern’s ice cream sundaes and Champagne (plus a custom-made flavor) for a party of eight. After auctioneer Jamie Niven shouted the last “Sold!” guests arose for the after-party, sated by gourmet food and hopeful for the promise of greener schools to come.

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