A tribute to the late Judy Rodgers

 Judy Rodgers

For those who may not have heard, Judy Rodgers, who was  the chef-owner of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, died last night of a long-standing cancer. Zuni Cafe won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in America in 2003. In 2005, Judy Rodgers was named Outstanding Chef in America, beating out Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, Alfred Portale and Nobu Matsuhisa.

But probably for most of us her impact was in our own kitchens, and with one cookbook. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook was an iconic book - one of the few restaurant-inspired cookbooks that were written with the home chef in mind. Unlike many in that genre, her recipes were easily followed and maximized flavor. And its popularity is certainly evidenced by the fact that over 1,000 EYB members own the book. 

And it is no exaggeration to say that I have dreamed of Judy Rodgers' roast chicken - the most famous recipe in the book - and thoroughly enjoying that chicken is an experience I have no doubt shared with more than a few EYB members. So her death at 57 has a double impact. First, anyone dying at 57 is way too young and, second, she brought some pleasure into the world - something to be proud of, aspire to, and not that easily achieved.

I would be very proud to leave her type of legacy behind - and it's very sad that her illness and death will prevent any further contributions.  Rest in peace.


1 Comment

  • FuzzyChef  on  12/4/2013 at 1:09 AM

    Zuni Cafe is possibly the only restaurant from the Bay Area gourmet revolution to survive almost unchanged, every bit as good in 2010 as it was in 1983. You know why? Because Rodgers stayed, and worked in the kitchen every week until she got sick. It was her restaurant and her vision and damn delicious food. I don't know if you can measure a life by the number of people she made happy, but if so her shortened life was actually a long one.

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