Published Jan 1, 2007 8:00 AM

09. Elevated Eating

What: California Cuisine

Who: Chefs Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower, Deborah Madison, Michael McCarty, Thomas Keller, Jonathan Waxman

Impact: Fresh, local ingredients, often bearing the name of the farm, frequently fused with Asian styles and spices and cooked with spare, old-world techniques — meaning French — really does produce remarkable cuisine. California-trained chefs and California-inspired cooks command stoves from Seattle to Las Vegas to Saratoga. Being seen in the Manhattan version of Michael's, the pioneering California cuisine restaurant in Santa Monica, is a must for New York power players. Chef Deborah Madison took her inspiration from the fields of a Zen retreat in Marin County before opening Greens, one of the nation's premier vegetarian restaurants. Alice Waters channeled her '60s activism and with Jeremiah Tower, urbanized French farmhouse cooking in an unpretentious Berkeley walkup called Chez Panisse that is considered the birthplace of California cuisine, while in Southern California, Michael McCarty channeled his French culinary academy training through Chez Panisse-trained Jonathan Waxman at Michael's.

Eureka moment: Contemporary California cuisine owes its origins to the Chinese immigrants who imported rice and found that it would grow well in the Sacramento Delta, while Japanese immigrants began cultivating large-scale vegetable farms in the Santa Clara Valley.

— Patrick Dillon