Amanda Marsalis Tastes Inspiration
A couple years ago Amanda Marsalis got an assignment from Vogue that brought her to the Edible Schoolyard, Chez Panisse’s educational hub. It was through that assignment that Amanda forged a relationship with the Berkley landmark restaurant, but it was a later tragedy that brought her back. “They had a fire and they were closed for four months, it was a really big deal and when they had the reopening of Chez Panisse they asked me to come document that,” says Amanda. “This was right before we were going to start filming Echo Park, it was the kind of thing that I ran up there because I wasn’t going to say no.” She squeezed the project in right before embarking on her first feature film and it’s a good thing she did. That relationship ended up coming back to her at an important time.
After she was finished Echo Park Amanda was exhausted. Even a little depleted. She was looking for something that would bring her back to the heart of creativity and her mind fell again on Chez Panisse. She called up her new friend Alice Water, the founder of Chez Panisse, and proposed a yearlong project. She would embed with them every season and just take a lot of photographs. “I would spend about three days up there every time just kind of documenting the ins and outs of the restaurant and their real commitment to craft, and how everything there is just very much a meditation and it was exactly what I needed to find my way back to inspiration,” Amanda says. She didn’t know what it would be at the time that she started, but they went for it anyway.
At the end of the year, Amanda looked at all her photographs and tried to figure out what she had. She linked up with her friend Mark Ankner, a partner at William Morris Endeavor, and decided she had a book on her hands. She and Mark started the process of putting it together, not just because it’s a document of a year in the life of this restaurant, but because of what the restaurant is doing and what it means. “Chez Panisse is a really special place in that it’s unique in its commitment to craft and they believe in really beautiful products served with very little fuss. You have to have a clean and healthy environment in which these things are raised and grown and everyone who works there is respectful to each other,” says Amanda. “Chez Panisse is the kind of place where if you are interested they will teach you. They’ll show you how to do what it is that you want to know how to do. It would be wonderful if more places in the world were that way.” Amanda is happy to admit that she almost put on an apron and joined Chez Panisse in the pursuit of a new career. The siren song still calls, but she’s happy with the camera.
The book is for sale now, and ships tomorrow November 15. Plus, the profits go right back the Chez Panisse’s educational program. “All of the profits from the book are being donated to The Edible Schoolyard. So that’s something we’re really proud of,” says Amanda. “I just hope people enjoy the book and take it for what it is which is basically a love letter to Chez Panisse.”