I just received news that I lost a friend today, the restaurant was very kind to personally call me before I heard elsewhere. Thank you!
Judy Rodgers of the famed Zuni Cafe passed away and it's a day to celebrate food! What's curious about this is we were not really close but I have been a regular at her restaurant for over 26 years. It's my FAVORITE restaurant in the world! And I have eaten at thousands.
Judy and Zuni are FOOD. Zuni is my second home, I have literally eaten there over 5000 times! I'm not kidding. I know most of the staff well, many who have worked there for decades. I have had family and staff parties, celebrations of every type or encounter there you can imagine. I have attend their parties and benefits and I have dreamed up companies, written songs, poems, letters and created some of my finest work on their paper table covers, carefully tearing them at the end of my meals and folding them away for further development more times than I can count. I have met some of my closest friends while sitting next to them as strangers only to end up sliding over and sharing wine together, I have shown off Zuni to my Celebrity friends and referred 1000's of people to it's doors. I am in love with Zuni Cafe and what Judy thoughtfully and passionately built over the years with her partners and colleagues.
Judy did not like to be called "Chef"! I love that because I do not like to be called anyone's "Boss" we are a team doing great things together is how I view my staff. But she led Zuni, and promoted from within. Bussers to Servers etc., and people stay at Zuni!
I love the family of Zuni, I loved how Judy and her food have nourished my soul, my ideas and have allowed me a home away from home, each time I walked in it's doors.
My favorite memory of Judy is the night I got to cook for her and her husband Kirk. I was nervous because my friends and my favorite chef were coming to my home for dinner. This was also the night that OJ Simpson ran from the police through the streets of Los Angeles in his Bronco. Judy called and said, "Sorry we're late but are you watching this on TV?" I replied, "Yes, it's so unbelievable I think I burned my sauce while watching the news!" Everyone was over an hour and a half late to dinner which while still good, was not as good as I had hoped. But she was gracious and we had a great meal and lots of fun together despite OJ's antics! And I got to cook for THE cook!
So here's to my favorite "cook"! My favorite restaurant, my favorite restaurant staff and to a lifetime of wonderful shared experiences. I will miss you Judy, as will the world for your style, grace and humility as well as the flavors you have given so many of us for so many years.
I don't believe in heaven and all that stuff but I know that IF there was a place like it, it's better have an Oyster Bar and a Brick Oven waiting because things are about to get a whole lot more tasty!
As for me, it's Noon in San Francisco and I'm going to Zuni for lunch!
Mark E. Sackett