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Landmark Berkeley restaurant reopens after fire

  • In this photo taken Thursday, June 20, 2013 Alice Waters poses outside the new front entrance to her Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. After a fire in March shut the doors to the famous gourmet restaurant, the eatery is preparing to reopen June 24. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

BERKELEY — Posing for a photograph in front of the refurbished front porch of her Chez Panisse restaurant, chef Alice Waters smiles as a passer-by calls out, "Looking good!"

It's true. They do look good — both the chef with the sparkling blue eyes who helped ignite America's interest in fresh, local food and the restaurant, all spruced up after damage from a fire this March.

This was the second fire to hit Chez Panisse in its 42-year history, coming almost exactly 31 years after a serious fire in 1982. Luckily, the toll this time was much less severe with sprinklers keeping the flames from spreading and damage mainly confined to the two-story front porch seating areas.

And if you're looking for self-pity over this latest setback, you won't find it at Alice's restaurant.

"Whenever there is fire, new things happen. New things sprout up like in the forest. It's just a moment to really reflect on what to do," says Waters. "Everything seems to happen for a reason, it just sort of woke us all up."


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