The original Chez Panisse waitress and former owner of the section has died

Jerry Badrick, one of the original waiters at Chez Panisse and a longtime server at the iconic restaurant, has died. He was 78 years old.

Born Gerald Badrick on February 23, 1944, in Chicago to Alphonse Badrick and Ann Valanga, Budrick was drawn to hospitality from a young age, serving beer and bourbon at his parents’ Southside Tavern while doing homework. .

But when he went to the opening night of Chez Panisse on August 28, 1971—a landmark moment in American food and dining culture ever—beyond a brief gig at a lakeside cafe in Austria, Budrick had no formal experience as a waiter.

This did not stop him from impressing diners.

ADVERTISEMENT

Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse, recalls Budrick’s mastery of the kitchen in her book Return to My Mind: The Making of a Countercultural Chef. He is, he wrote, “a full, beautiful, expressive figure, like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, with exaggerated movements, as if acting in a theatrical production.” Jerry was notorious – he exuded an air of sophistication, but he could also be very funny, joking with customers, other waiters and chefs.”

Jerry Badrick, original member of the Chez Panisse team.

In honor of Rick Wise

In the foreword to Budrick’s 2021 memoir, Waiting at Chez Panisse, acclaimed Chez Panisse and Chef to the Stars Jeremiah Tower wrote that Budrick “balanced Alice beautifully in the kitchen.” As a server, Budrick “brought professional service to the dining room, sometimes under the pressure of a different menu every night and a diner that behaved differently than other Bay Area restaurants.”

In his memoir, Budrick credits Waters and Tower as the “fathers” of California dining, while also shedding light on the roles played by lesser-known characters within the restaurant.

When Budrick founded the restaurant corporation in 1975, he was the principal employee and part owner of the restaurant. His last day on the job came in 1987, and he moved to Amador County and opened a bottled water business. In 1992, as the business ran into financial difficulties, he sold his shares in Chez Panisse back to Waters. Budrick later operated Via D’Oro Mediterranean Restaurant in Sutter Creek with his wife, Deborah Budrick.

Badrick died on Sunday, July 24 after a five-year battle with esophageal cancer. He left behind his wife and two children.


Mario Cortez (he) is a staff member at the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]