If you have a copy of Judy Rodgers' sublime cookbook, The Zuni Café Cookbook, and you should, maybe go find it and think about cooking from it today in homage to its author. Rodgers, whose Zuni Café in San Francisco achieved iconic status in the years she ran it, died yesterday at the age of 57.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Rodgers, who had battled cancer recently, died last night. Fittingly, Zuni Café will be open today.
A native of St. Louis, Rodgers went to France as a teenage exchange student and apprenticed at none other than Les Frères Troisgros. Back in the United States, she'd cooked at Chez Panisse before heading to New York City. Rodgers first came to Zuni, which Billy West opened in 1979, in 1987.
Rodgers quickly made Zuni Café a destination for food lovers in California as well as the rest of the country, cooking her version of Mediterranean-influenced California cuisine. In 2002, she published her first and only cookbook, a glorious and beautifully written book that quickly became a modern classic. Rodgers won a number of James Beard Awards, including Outstanding Restaurant for Zuni in 2003 and Outstanding Chef in 2004. Her cookbook won Cookbook of the Year in 2003.
Rodgers' justly famous recipe for roast chicken is on page 342 of her cookbook. This might be a very, very good day to make it and remember the woman who created the recipe, along with some of the very best cooking in California.
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