San Francisco chef Judy Rodgers died yesterday at the age of 57. Inside Scoop SF confirmed with Rodgers' friend and business partner Gilbert Pilgram that Rodgers succumbed to her battle with cancer last night. Rodgers was chef and co-owner of Zuni Cafe since 1987, and over her tenure garnered herself and the restaurant many accolades including the Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in 2003 and the Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2004. The restaurant was famous for its dedication to local California ingredients as well as its legendary roast chicken for two. Read a recent Eater Elements in which Rodgers describes the dish. "The simplest things," Rodgers said, "are often the best."
Rodgers was also known for her bestselling cookbook The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Restaurant. The book won the Beard Award for Cooking from a Professional Point of View as well as Cookbook of the Year in 2003; the same year, it should be noted, that Zuni Cafe won Outstanding Restaurant. The cookbook also won an IACP award that year.
In the introduction to The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Rodgers wrote:
I cannot make a dish without trying to conjure where it came from, and where I first had it, or read about it, or who made it, or taught me to make it. And who grew the vegetables, raised the chickens, or made the cheese, and where. In this way, the simplest dish can recall a community of ideas and people...I have written this book for those who wish to linger at time over details in that continuum of ideas, and who consider cooking a labor of love. Indeed, food itself is only part of the seduction of cooking.
May her memory live long in that continuum of ideas. Below, Rodgers accepts her Outstanding Chef JBFA in 2004.
Video: Judy Rodgers Wins the 2004 JBFA for Outstanding Chef
We have lost a great friend, chef and mentor. Judy Rodgers left us today, but she is cooking with all the other great chefs. #judyrodgers— Terra Restaurant (@LissaandHiro) December 3, 2013
I am so sad to hear that Judy Rodgers has passed. A wonderful chef and person. My first great meal in SF was Zuni in 1990. RIP, friend.— daniel patterson (@dcpatterson) December 3, 2013
It's a sad day! Judy Rodgers thank you for the inspiration. Amazing chef and even more important an amazing person. RIP— Chris Cosentino (@offalchris) December 3, 2013
Roses from Judy Rodgers garden...you taught us well from your food & legacy of Zuni! You will be missed! RIP JUDY. pic.twitter.com/sRwX4iy2ih— statebirdprovisions (@statebirdsf) December 3, 2013
So sad to hear about Judy Rodgers, chef of the wonderful Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.— Fuchsia Dunlop (@fuchsiadunlop) December 3, 2013
So sad to learn that Judy Rodgers is gone. Judy was the most modest, inspirational, intelligent chef. A lovely person and true pioneer. RIP.— ruthreichl (@ruthreichl) December 3, 2013
RIP Judy Rodgers from Zuni Cafe. I staged there back in the mid 90's. She was one of the greats. This year we have lost some legends.— Homaro Cantu (@Homarocantu) December 3, 2013
So sad to wake to news of Judy Rodgers. She was a true pioneer of grace and simplicity in cooking. I am so grateful for her gifts #zunicafe— NaomiPomeroy (@NaomiPomeroy) December 3, 2013
Sad to awaken to news of Judy Rodgers' passing. A woman who defined "pioneer", & who was a savory talent & sweet soul. You will be missed.— Matthew Jennings (@matthewjennings) December 3, 2013
I remember a night at Zuni Cafe with a dear friend, that iconic chicken and the otherworldly warmth. The kind of small memory that lives on.— Francis Lam (@Francis_Lam) December 3, 2013
Whoa. Again another sad day in food. RIP Judy Rodgers. Great restaurant, food & book. SF & culinary role model. "Always cook with heart"— matthew gaudet (@GaudetMatthew) December 3, 2013
Zuni is a place I always say to go to in SF. Very sad to hear about Judy Rodgers.— Bill Telepan (@billtelepan) December 3, 2013
Woke up to hear the sad news of Chef and the Inspiration of Zuni Cafe in SF Judy Rodgers passing away. She touched many through her cooking— Bobby Stuckey (@BobbyStuckeyMS) December 3, 2013
Rest in peace Judy Rodgers. The Zuni cafe cookbook was an inspiration to my mother and me, especially. You will be missed. #rip— alex guarnaschelli (@guarnaschelli) December 3, 2013
Shocked to see Judy Rodgers died. Remember her father@Troisgros brothers,&later Judy.Her roasted chicken w/bread salad will be immortal.— Gael Greene (@GaelGreene) December 3, 2013
When I visit SF, I always make time for Zuni Cafe. And when I cook at home, it often comes from the Zuni Cafe ckbk. Thank you, Judy Rodgers.— Andrew Knowlton (@AndrewOKnowlton) December 3, 2013
Judy Rodgers had especially been on my mind w/ growing discussion of female chefs. Consider making this in tribute: http://t.co/V0GsY69rEO— Kat Kinsman (@kittenwithawhip) December 3, 2013
Everything Judy Rodgers did she did perfectly: the contrast with California casual made her and it better, and Zuni Cafe unmissable.— Corby Kummer (@CKummer) December 3, 2013
Saddened to wake up to the news that Judy Rodgers has died. She made Zuni one of the city's great places, one you can't help loving.— Jonathan Kauffman (@jonkauffman) December 3, 2013
For almost 2 yrs I walked by Zuni Cafe daily on my way to work at Mecca. Seminal restaurant started by an amazing chef. RIP Judy Rodgers.— hugh acheson (@HughAcheson) December 3, 2013