Today we celebrate, honor and cherish the memory of Judy Rodgers. Rodgers was born October 28, 1956 and died in December 2013 at the age of 57 after a yearlong battle with a rare cancer. Her influence lives on.
Judy Rodgers was instrumental in putting San Francisco on the culinary map with Zuni Café and the beloved namesake cookbook. As a Stanford undergrad in Art History in 1974, Rodgers spent a year abroad in France and upon her return, started hanging out at Chez Panisse. "I guess Alice [Waters] decided there was enough I was doing that wasn’t terrible, so she hired me as the regular lunch chef after graduation," Rodgers told Stanford Magazine.
Rodgers was a woman who mentored and inspired so many great female chefs: Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia in Atlanta, Jessica Boncutter formerly of Bar Jules in San Francisco, Food & Wine Best New Chef Marsha McBride of Café Rouge, Gayle Pirie of Foreign Cinema in San Francisco, who wrote in SFGate:
“Once you work under the realm of a masterful chef, somehow they remain “my chef” in your lifetime, in your heart — no matter how many loyal staffers refer to you as “chef” countless times over each day.” Gayle Pirie to SF Gate
She was an early proponent of local, seasonal ingredients and felt that the bounty in California was a gift. As she wrote in her cookbook:
”Receiving these treasures has been a constant delight, and the task of showing them at their best is one of my favorite responsibilities. Seeking just the right preparation to magnify the charms of a knobby potato, skinny stalk of asparagus, or the first freshly shelled walnuts of the year is always a happy challenge.” Judy Rodgers in Zuni Cafe Cookbook
So, in honor of her birthday, pull out your copy of the Zuni Cafe Cookbook and make the legendary Roast Chicken. It is one of the all-time greatest recipes from one of the all-time greatest chefs in, as Eater pointed out, arguably one of the greatest cookbooks ever written:
“It has earned a space on the shelf next to Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Edna Lewis' The Taste of Country Cooking, Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook, Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso's The Silver Palate Cookbook.” Eater, December 2013
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