Photo: Wayne Bremser
Hearing that Judy Rodgers had passed away sent me to the kitchen. Her beautiful cookbook is one of three on my shelf and I've turned to it again and again because Judy, anchored as she was to technique and history, often had answers to all my questions, because repetition came before creativity and innovation. If you think making the same dish day after day is easy, it's not. If you're not falling in love with the same dish each time you carefully gather the ingredients for it, whether it's a caesar salad or a hamburger, you should untie your apron and order take-out.
I never had the privilege to work with Judy, but have always felt her tall slender presence nearby--a quirky angel with waist length hair, mini skirt and bright colored tights--you would have to search the planet for a more serious, dedicated, intelligent chef. Restaurants come and go, chefs tire and retire, but Zuni stayed and Judy never looked away. She spoke to every single diner through her intensely flavorful soups, her simmered dinners, creamy scrambled eggs, and summer puddings. Moored to her stove, gliding through the dining room with a champagne flute was not for her. She was marrow to the bone.
Tonight, in memory of Judy, we're making her braised chicken with honey and vinegar, substituting dates for figs, and remembering all the soulful meals, the birthdays and anniversaries we celebrated at Zuni.
So long Chef.