No one was hurt when a fire hit Berkeley’s Chez Panisse on March 8, but the restaurant’s structure was damaged. Early reports suggested the café and restaurant would be closed for only a few weeks of construction, but Alice Waters has posted an update on the restaurant’s site with more details, explaining that the front of the building will have to be redesigned, and the porches removed entirely.
Waters explains that the original builder, Kip Mesirow, has come in from Vermont to lead a team of woodworkers on the rebuild:
We have learned from the builders that we have to remove both the top and bottom porches on the front of the building. This means there will be a more significant demolition project ahead of us than we had originally anticipated, as well as many structural repairs that affect both upstairs and down.
To get a sense of the building’s significance, read David Tanis’s beautiful post for Diner’s Journal from the day after the fire, explaining the charms of the old downstairs porch. According to Tanis, the porch was traditionally the site of the staff’s menu meetings, and where potential new cooks served their dishes to a table of in-house judges over the years. To diners, it was “a glorious spot to observe the dramatic West Coast sunsets.”
The Chez Panisse crew is currently helping out with cleanup and repainting, and calling guests to cancel their reservations. A re-opening date is “still to be determined,” but you can expect more updates here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 19, 2013