Obituaries of note: Judy Rodgers, Richard Tapscott

December 4, 2013
Judy Rodgers
restaurateur

Judy Rodgers, the award-winning chef-owner of San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe who was an integral part of a wave of young chefs who remade the culinary world in the 1970s and 1980s, inventing what has come to be called “California cuisine,” died Dec. 2 in Berkeley, Calif. She was 57.

The cause was cancer of the appendix, said Gilbert Pilgram, her business partner.

Ms. Rodgers, who grew up in St. Louis, took over the kitchen at Zuni Cafe on a run-down stretch of Market Street in 1987, quickly turning what had been a passably popular Southwestern-themed cafe into one of the defining restaurants of her generation.

Under Ms. Rodgers, Zuni was named the best restaurant in America in 2003 by the James Beard Foundation. And in 2004, she was named the country’s outstanding chef by the same organization. (The other nominees that year included such well-known names as Mario Batali, Nobu Matsuhisa and Tom Colicchio.) Her “Zuni Cafe Cookbook” was named cookbook of the year in 2003 by the Beard Foundation.

In an era when most chefs pride themselves on reinventing their menus on a whim, Ms. Rodgers hewed to a strong central core of well-loved dishes. Perhaps the best loved of these is a simple roast chicken, cooked in a wood-fired oven. On the menu for decades, more than 350 a week are sold at Zuni.

As a young woman, Ms. Rogers worked for Alice Waters at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse while attending Stanford University. Ms. Rodgers brought the Chez Panisse aesthetic with her when she took over the kitchen at the historic Union Hotel in Benicia, Calif., in the early 1980s. There she perfected a fried chicken that then-New West magazine restaurant critic Ruth Reichl hailed as “the most perfect example of that dish I have ever encountered.”

That was typical of Ms. Rodgers’s approach to cooking: Take something seemingly simple and make the best version of it possible. And once that’s done, keep working at it.

Richard Tapscott
journalist

Richard Tapscott, a former Washington Post journalist and managing editor at the Des Moines Register, died Dec. 1 in Des Moines. He was 65.

The cause was colon cancer, said his wife, Barb Tapscott.

Mr. Tapscott was a state and national editor at the Kansas City Times before joining The Post in 1987 as an assistant Maryland editor with responsibility for coverage in Prince George’s County. He later was a reporter in the Annapolis bureau and covered Congress before joining the Register in 1998 and climbing his way up from the metro editor’s job to managing editor.

After leaving the Register in 2005, Mr. Tapscott became managing editor of the Wilmington News Journal in Delaware. He retired from the newspaper business in 2007 and began teaching at Drake University in Des Moines.

Mr. Tapscott was a native of Trenton, Mo., and a graduate of the University of Missouri.

— News services