The legendary San Francisco chef was an inspiration—Rodgers’ most frequently given advice was “always cook with heart.” This philosophy came through in every dish that emerged from the Zuni Cafe kitchen, including the restaurant’s famous “roast chicken for two,” a crisp-skinned whole chicken served with bread salad soaked in glorious chicken jus, tossed with currants, pine nuts, and greens. This dish has been called “a key building block in the evolution of California cuisine,” a statement which can undoubtedly be applied to Zuni Cafe as a whole.
The perfect lunch, one might argue, can be had at Zuni. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I went to Zuni for my final meal. The sun washed over a table filled with Pacific oysters, a bottle of Rosé, and a plate of that immaculate roast chicken. But I’m not from San Francisco, and I’m sure the residents of that great city will miss Judy Rodgers’ presence more than I ever will.
Here’s what chefs and food writers had to say about her passing:
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
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
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
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