Berkeley’s famous restaurant Chez Panisse will be restored in the coming weeks after suffering extensive damage from a fire on March 8.
Alice Waters, owner, founder and executive chef of Chez Panisse, said she hopes that the restaurant will reopen by April 1, the cafe’s birthday — though this date may not be feasible. The fire occurred before dawn, with evidence currently pointing to an electrical short as the cause of the incident.
Though the damage and details about how to conduct the restoration are still being assessed due to the age and wooden frame of the building, more will be certain by the middle of next week, Waters said.
“Right now, we’re just cleaning the restaurant from top to bottom,” Waters said. “It looks more like a flea market than anything.”
According to Waters, the restaurant will be restored to its former self but with a few modifications to promote efficiency. Waters anticipates, for instance, that there will be much more airspace upstairs, along with some changes to the kitchen.
“I’m very optimistic that it will be better than before,” Waters said.
The restaurant, which has been closed since the fire, has been able to rely on its business-interruption insurance and is focusing on paying staff in the meantime, Waters stated.
The city of Berkeley has been very helpful in assisting with the recovery of the iconic restaurant, both in providing a speedy fire response and in helping facilitate the new opening through building permits. If all goes well, the restaurant realistically intend to reopen in three to five weeks, Waters said.
Contact Christine Tyler at [email protected].