Last night, Judy Rodgers, the chef/proprietor at San Francisco’s famed Zuni Cafe, passed away from what appeared to be complications from cancer. She was 57.
A graduate of both Stanford University and Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse, Rodgers shot to fame after she was hired at Zuni Cafe in 1987, partially due to her legendary roast chicken and bread salad, but mostly due to Zuni’s revolutionary simplicity. As Inside Scoop SF described it:
Rodgers and Zuni Cafe hold a uniquely and indescribably special place in San Francisco (and the United States) for all those other reasons: The casual yet revolutionary simplicity of the restaurant, her myriad influences (both direct and indirect) on her fellow chefs, the subtle smoky smell you get upon entrance, the warm spirit of that funky building on Market, the soft light of a mid-afternoon Saturday, the roasted chicken for two, its title as The San Francisco Restaurant.
Her skills eventually earned her the James Beard Outstanding Chef Award in 2004, “beating four guys named Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, Alfred Portale and Nobu Matsuhisa.” (We hope that the TIME editor who wrote that “Female Chefs Aren’t Important” article is listening.) Zuni Cafe itself won the Best Restaurant award in 2003.
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