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Berkeley's Chez Panisse restaurant damaged in fire

  • Berkeley Fire Inspector Stan Fernandez looks at damage at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., Friday, March 8, 2013. A fire blazed through a landmark dining section of chef and food activist Alice Waters' famed restaurant on Friday. The bulk of the building was not damaged, fire officials said. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

BERKELEY — Chef and food activist Alice Waters inspected damage to the facade of her famed Chez Panisse on Friday after a fire blazed through a landmark dining section of the Berkeley restaurant.

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, Webb said.

"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. "There's not an obvious reason for the fire yet. The investigators are taking a look at it and not starting with any preconceived ideas of how the fire may have started."

No one was injured and neither the restaurant's structure nor its celebrated kitchen suffered, Waters said.


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