What's one of the more unusual dishes you've ever prepared?
One was a classic French dish called truite au bleu. You have live trout and you just conk them on the head and you gut them through the mouth and throw them right into the court bouillon. When you do it, the skin turns a kind of bluish color.
Do you have any advice for mothers who say they're too busy to make nutritious meals for their kids?
Organize yourself so you aren't struggling to shop at the last minute. When you have real food, it's very easy to cook. If I've gone to the market on Saturday, and I go another time on Tuesday, then I'm really prepared. I can cook a little piece of fish; I can wilt some greens with garlic; I can slice tomatoes and put a little olive oil on. It's effortless.
Should schools be lending more of a helping hand?
The school system needs to take the responsibility of feeding all the children who are at the school for free. They should offer them breakfast and lunch and an afternoon snack. That, in a way, gives the parents the reassurance and the ability to take care of the other meal that the children have.
What's your response to those who say you're trying to limit kids' choices?
I'm not trying to dictate what kind of food they eat. I want them to fall in love with food that's good for them. And the way you do that, I believe, is to engage the kids in the work of being in the garden, seeing where it comes from, cooking it themselves.
Why haven't Americans embraced the "slow food movement" as quickly as Europeans have?
We've been so disconnected agriculturally and culturally from food. We spend more time on dieting than on cooking. How [else] could a restaurant like Chez Panisse be unique and celebrated in this country when it's just a simple place? There are hundreds and thousands of these in France. [But] in the world of fast food, it's like a revelation.
Have you ever eaten McDonald's?
I did once. I was surprised that it was not more flavorful.