Chow Down on Berkeley Food History

This map by L. John Harris depicts North Berkeley’s famed food quarter circa 1970. As the publisher of Aris Books, Harris commissioned painter Stan Washburn to capture chefs and diners inside Chez Panisse for a book cover. Read more below. (Images courtesy of L. John Harris)


The Berkeley Historical Society has opened its Berkeley’s Fascination with Food exhibit through April, and to amp up the fun, the inimitable L. John Harris is spinning out tales (plus Q&A) of his “50-Year Obsession with Over-Roasted Coffee, Goaty Cheese, Baby Vegetables, Stinky Garlic, Fatty Pastrami, and More” at the virtual Berkeley City Club.

The Berkeley Historical Society’s History Center, where you can view the Berkeley’s Fascination with Food exhibit through April, is open to the public on Saturdays only, 1–4 pm. Contact the Center if you would like an appointment to visit at other days or hours.

To learn more about Harris’s Berkeley City Club virtual event on April 7 at 7pm, click here or go right to the registration here.

In 1986, Berkeley painter Stan Washburn depicted the open kitchen at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli cooking. L. John Harris is the character in the foreground at the table. The painting was commissioned for the cover of Arthur Bloomfield’s Restaurant Book, published by Aris Books in 1987. “Mrs. Bloomfield is next to me and Arthur, the late San Francisco restaurant and music critic, has his back to the frame,” says Harris. The painting is on display at the Berkeley Historical Society until the exhibit closes at the end of April.