Alice Waters Wants to Transform the Way California Students Eat

The renowned chef’s new restaurant at L.A.’s Hammer Museum is just the beginning. She is working alongside the UC system to help the campuses shift their dining options to an entirely regenerative program over the next five years.

To enter Lulu, Alice Waters’ new restaurant at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, you first make your way through a maze of guests rocking side to side in one of a dozen Herman Miller Magis Spun chairs strewn about the courtyard. You find your way to the host stand then pass a long, reclaimed table topped with wooden bowls and copper platters of fresh farmers market finds, like the Kishu mandarins that grace the dessert menu and Meyer lemons releasing their essence into the air.

You might stop to inspect the indigo pillows lining both indoor and outdoor booths, or the fabric mosaics woven into art pieces above the bar. All are made by Los Angeles local Christina Kim, entirely from scraps at her studio. Kim also designs all of Waters’ clothes, the renowned restaurateur and author tells me, sporting a navy-patterned caftan dress as we speak over spritzes and salads adorned with faultlessly poached eggs, broccolini, and lentils at the bar.

Lulu at Hammer Museum

Thomas J. Story

These details are no surprise, as Waters and chef David Tanis aren’t attempting to reinvent the wheel at Lulu. They are instead revisiting their roots with basic preparations of the best ingredients in a restaurant where even the smallest elements are treated like rare gems.

Alice Waters and David Tanis at LuluChef David Tanis and Alice Waters

Thomas J. Story

This echoes the type of space I first stepped into about 10 years ago when I interned at Chez Panisse. I spent four weeks in the pastry department of Waters’ iconic Berkeley restaurant, sorting through trays of blueberries for the fresh fruit bowls that graced the dessert menu. The final step of preparing the dish for service required me to head into the backyard and trim grape leaves from a tree that hung over picnic tables, where we ate staff meals on sunny days. The leaves needed to cover just enough of the serving bowl so that they climbed up the edges when the fruit was placed on top. And they all needed to be a similar size so that, as was explained to me, if a table got two fruit bowls, they would appear consistent.

How did I end up as an intern at the young age of 14, might you ask? The summer before I started high school, I wowed some family friends, who worked in the kitchen at the time, with a galette that I brought to a dinner party. They felt confident I could learn and grow leaps and bounds at Chez Panisse, and my mother agreed, permitting me to take the bus from downtown Oakland before 7 a.m. for a month.

Alice Waters and Magdalena O'Neal at LuluAlice Waters and Magdalena O’Neal

Thomas J. Story

I remember watching Waters walk through the kitchen, warmly greeting each employee and tasting whatever they had in front of them. Unknowingly, she taught me that every step, ingredient, and member of the team she so meticulously had put together mattered equally—then at Chez, now at Lulu.

Today, Waters’ efforts toward education continue to be at the forefront of Lulu. She told me that she agreed to the idea of taking over the restaurant space almost immediately upon hearing of its ties to the University of California, Los Angeles.

Unbridled and Bella Coola cocktailsUnbridled and Bella Coola cocktails

Thomas J. Story

The Hammer is just a few short blocks from the main stretch of UCLA’s campus and exists as a free museum for all. Lulu sits between galleries that have showcased pieces from notable artists ranging from Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh to figurative painter and founder of the Underground Museum, Noah Davis.

Waters wants Lulu to be seen as a permanent installation within the museum, with chef David Tanis as daily curator. Each day, he combines his globally-inspired palate with farmers markets’ premier offerings like romanesco, watermelon radishes, apples, whole walnuts, and a variety of potatoes and beets.

Alice Waters Lulu sandwich recipe

Thomas J. Story

Lulu is one part of a series of ambitious projects by Waters that are nearing fruition: She is working alongside the UC system to help the universities shift their dining options to an entirely regenerative program over the next five years involving local farmers, while also integrating farmers markets on campus and furthering education around land stewardship, nourishment, and community building. The initiative will begin with The Alice Waters Institute at the University of California, Davis, which will soon operate as a resource and cultural center for both the university and surrounding Sacramento community. The project will soon expand to UCLA, and Waters hopes to help convert the entire UC system to regenerative sources by 2027.

In the meantime, you can head to Lulu for a taste of Waters’ and Tanis’ exemplary preparations. Odds are you’ll never get the same dish twice—unless you opt for one of the staple salads or sides, like rosemary potato chips or almonds tossed with parmesan and herbs. The attention to detail and obvious admiration of simple ingredients offer an edible education to each and every diner who graces its reclaimed tables. Or you can try your hand at becoming a student of the pair thanks to these recipes they’ve generously shared with us from the restaurant’s menu.

Personally, I haven’t looked at blueberries or grape leaves the same since I crossed paths with Waters a decade ago.

Lulu Alice Waters recipe French Lentil Salad Broccolini Soft Cooked Eggs 94472Q==

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French Lentil Salad with Broccolini and Soft-Cooked Eggs

This salad from Alice Waters’ Lulu highlights farmers market broccolini with a boost of flavor from fresh herbs and carrots that are mixed into quickly cooked lentils. 

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Grilled Chicken Breast with Greens

While this dish may seem simple, it represents the Chez Panisse style of making something simple as well as possible. “This kind of ‘chicken salad’ of sorts can change with the seasons,” Tanis says. “The base recipe is a grilled chicken breast, salad greens, and a seasonal vegetable garnish.”

Sunset Wine Club: Perfect Pairing

THE WINE: 2020 Lioco Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California. 
TASTING NOTES: The nose transports you to an orchard full of green apples with hints of lemon pith, fresh cut green pineapple, and chamomile. The palate is uplifting with vibrant acidity.
WHY IT WORKS: Crisp and bright, this Sonoma County Chardonnay offers a cleansing finish to Lulu’s classic California flavors.

Find this bottle, and others just like it, at the Sunset Wine Club.

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Potato Chips with Rosemary

“It’s important to find a variety of potato that gets crisp when fried,” says Tanis of this simple yet herbaceous appetizer or side dish. “We sometimes use a Yukon Gold type or Rose Fir. You can try to use small russets, but the only real way to know if they will work is to test a few slices.”

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Baked Goat Cheese with Mixed Greens

“This dish is a Chez Panisse classic,” Tanis says. A larger log of cheese can be used to easily increase the yield of this recipe—which would make for a show-stopping accompaniment to a charcuterie spread.

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Apple Galette

A Chez Panisse staple, Alice Waters’ galette is sure to impress year-round and can be made with any sturdy fruit you can find at the market, like pears, peaches, plums, or apricots. 

Recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters copyright © 2007. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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Unbridled

“The inspiration for this cocktail was based on the mint julep and a David Lentz cocktail called the pimlico that used to be on the list at the Hungry Cat in Los Angeles,” says Lulu’s beverage director, Rosemary West. “The name came about because the Hammer Museum was built in 1990 and the winner of the Kentucky Derby that year was Unbridled.”

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Bella Coola

For a refreshing, nonalcoholic cocktail, Lulu’s beverage director, Rosemary West, combines a botanical spirit with fresh, bright citrus flavors. “This cocktail is named Bella Coola after the Bella Coola River because Riverine botanicals are sourced from the Pacific Northwest,” West says.

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