"That was an important time in my life, when I went to California and toured Deborah Madison's Greens [restaurant] and Alice Waters' Chez Panisse. It just opened my eyes to what my restaurant could be. It really hit a nerve and showed me how I could take my restaurant to the next level. And I did. I came home and decided that I needed to move to a better location. The next week I signed the lease on what became Cafe Brenda in Minneapolis, so yes, that was a very inspiring trip. Alice was so warm and sweet, and she gave us the insider's tour of the kitchen and we had the most incredible meal. Alice has been a tremendous mentor for women. She has taught us that it is such an important thing to love what we do, and to cook really beautiful, healthy food. This is really a man's world, and I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just that we're outnumbered. Sisterhood is powerful."
-- Brenda Langton, who opened Spoonriver in downtown Minneapolis in 2006. Langton owned Cafe Kardamena in St. Paul from 1978 to 1986 and Cafe Brenda in downtown Minneapolis from 1986 to 2009.
"The restaurant itself has been so influential, and more influential than the books or even Alice Waters herself. I'm so old now, and I've been here for so long, but I remember way back when my restaurant was 36 seats, and I decided to double it. Two of my chefs and I went to San Francisco to eat, and Chez Panisse is one of the places we went. It was so cool. Now there are a fair number of restaurants like it, but back then there just weren't. You walked in and felt this fun energy and excitement around food, and that just was not the way it was in most restaurants back then. It was serious, but not stodgy. It said, 'We're taking food seriously here,' and that was pretty inspiring to a young chef like me."
-- Lucia Watson, who opened Lucia's Restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis 26 years ago.
"It has inspired me, on so many levels. Early on at Alma I was trying to figure out what was seasonal around the country, because we come out of this long winter and we have to serve something besides potatoes and beets and onions. It might not be available to me locally, but to figure out what's available elsewhere in the country, I'd go to the Chez Panisse website and see what they were serving. They were that kind of a bellwether for seasonality, and for quality. There is also a humility to the restaurant that I admire. And of course the Chez Panisse cookbooks, I have them all in my collection. There's such a sensibility that they brought forth -- rustic French, rustic Italian, with a little Spanish thrown in -- all with a California twist, and it still really holds up. They're unbelievable."
-- Alex Roberts, who opened Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis in 1999