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The Cookstr Weekly: Remembering Judy Rodgers

December 5, 2013
This week, the cooking community suffered the loss of Judy Rodgers, whose Zuni Cafe Cookbook is regarded as a classic and whose visionary but straightforward approach to cooking influenced and empowered thousands of home cooks. In her well-known headnote for the Zuni Roast Chicken recipe, Judy writes in part:
“The third requirement is salting the bird at least 24 hours in advance. This improves flavor, keeps it moist, and makes it tender. We don’t bother trussing the chicken – I want as much skin as possible to blister and color. And we don’t rub the chicken with extra fat, trusting its own skin to provide enough. Our brick oven does add a lovely smoky flavor, but it is its tender succulence that really distinguishes this chicken, and this you can achieve at home. I have shared our method with many home cooks, who report the results are startling and delicious when they prepare a chicken this way in their gas or electric ovens. And over the years, I’ve cooked at least a hundred of these pre-seasoned chickens in a 1940s O’Keefe and Merritt oven at home, roasting variously in a cast-iron frying pan, a tin pie pan, a copper Tarte Tatin pan, and a 10-inch All-Clad skillet, with no anxiety, or apologies, and with fine results.”
Judy was inspired by the provenance of food and by her own tastes, always cooking what she herself loved. Her best advice was to “always cook with heart.”
Warmest regards,

Kara Rota
Editorial Director

Remembering Judy Rodgers


Judy Rodgers was chef-partner at Zuni Café in San Francisco, and a pioneer of simple and casual American fare based on traditional French and Italian cuisines.

She authored The Zuni Café Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant. She is also one of the featured chefs in Becoming a Chef: With Recipes and Reflections from America’s Leading Chefs by Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page, 2003.

Born in St. Louis, Judy moved to California to study art history at Stanford University in Palo Alto. As it was, she had already been exposed to the glories of food when, as a 16-year-old, she had traveled to France as an exchange student and found herself living and working with the famed Troisgros family, owners of the three-star restaurant in Roanne.

When Judy finished college, she considered going to law school, but after a dinner at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, she shared some of her Troisgros recipes with Alice Waters. Alice suggested that Judy cook at the restaurant with her for a couple of days and then offered her a position as lunch chef. From there, Judy was hired to open the Union Hotel, a restaurant in Benicia, California. In 1987, she became the chef at Zuni Café, where she remained for over 25 years as chef-owner. In 2004, Judy was named outstanding chef by the James Beard Foundation.


More Judy Rodgers Recipes on Cookstr
Orange-Currant Scones
Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad

Baked Artichokes with Onions, Lemons, Black Olives and Mint
Mixed Lettuces with Roasted Cherries, Hazelnuts, and Warm Saint-Marcellin
Air-Dried Beef and Fuyu Persimmons
Skirt Steak and Hanger Steak
Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream
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One Comment leave one →
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