Restaurant News & Reviews

Small fire temporarily closes famed Chez Panisse in California

Chef and food activist Alice Waters’ iconic restaurant, Chez Panisse, remains closed after a fire damaged the landmark in Berkeley, Calif., Friday.

A small eating area with signature woodwork within the restaurant’s front porch burned, but firefighters were able to extinguish the fire quickly, and the bulk of the building was not damaged, fire officials said.

The fire apparently started in a sub-floor area of the building in the pre-dawn hours, but the cause has yet to be determined, said Berkeley Fire Department Deputy Chief Avery Webb.

The location and circumstances of the blaze were unusual for a restaurant fire.

“The business was closed at that time. There was nobody in the building that was encountered. People aren’t usually in that area of the building. So that’s just drawing our attention to the fact that we need to look at this pretty closely,” he said.

No one was injured.

“I’m pretty shaky right now, but I’m just glad no one was in the building,” Waters said in an early morning interview with KRON-TV outside her charred restaurant. “So that’s a great relief that in the middle of the night that this happened. It really focuses all your attention on what it is important.”

Firefighters had no estimate on when the restaurant will be safe to reopen.

Since Waters founded the restaurant in 1971, it has gained global renown in culinary circles for pioneering the creative use of fresh, local food in season.