A big salute goes out to Chuck Williams, the founder of Williams-Sonoma, who took time out from his busy schedule during the International Association of Culinary Professionals meeting here to pay a visit to the Crescent City Farmers Market April 19. Mr. Williams, still energetic in his nineties, rang the opening bell and then made the rounds at the Saturday Market, visiting with vendors Tim Perilloux, Kay Brandhurst, Cheryl Scripter and others. Williams — who comes from California, where the farmers market tradition is well established — was impressed by the welcoming atmosphere he found in New Orleans. And we were honored to have him as our guest.
Like Alice Waters, executive chef and founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Chuck Williams helped change the way Americans think about food. He started the company in 1954, selling European cookware out of a former hardware store in Sonoma at a time when industrial farming and the fast food industry were on the rise. Williams-Sonoma carved out a niche by bucking the trend, and the company rose in prominence as interest in small-scale farming, organic methods and traditional food preparations grew.
Last year, Williams-Sonoma was our host in San Francisco during the White Boot Brigade's West Coast campaign, and the company dedicated its lavish February 2008 catalog to New Orleans. All the photos were shot on location here, including some of White Boot Brigade shrimper Lance Nacio, who has been shipping his wild-caught shrimp to Williams-Sonoma customers across the country.
"Chuck Williams is one of a handful of leaders who have inspired a movement to upgrade the quality standards of food in America," says marketumbrella.org executive director Richard McCarthy. "He sparked a revolution."
Our thanks to Mr. Williams for all he's done, and congratulations for the Lifetime Achievement Award he received from the IACP.
Market Umbrella is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3), based in New Orleans, whose mission is to cultivate the field of public markets for public good. Market Umbrella has operated the Crescent City Farmers Markets (CCFM) since 1995.
The Crescent City Farmers Market operates weekly year-round in four New Orleans neighborhoods. The CCFM hosts nearly 80 local small farmers, fishers and food producers, and more than 100,000 shoppers annually.