San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe is losing its longtime chef Nate Norris

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Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, California on Saturday, April 11, 2015.

Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, California on Saturday, April 11, 2015.

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Famed San Francisco restaurant Zuni Cafe is moving into a new chapter, though not in regards to the issue of tips. In an email sent to Zuni staff and SFGATE, executive chef Nate Norris announced that he was leaving the restaurant after nearly 20 years at the restaurant.

“As many of you are already aware I am leaving my position at Zuni Cafe,” Norris said in the email. “I have been immensely fortunate to work at this institution, where I started with Judy Rodgers in 2004.”

Norris and his fiancee, former Zuni pastry chef Annie Callan, plan to move to Maine in order to be closer to their families, but also to continue their careers.?

“One thing I have learned in my time at Zuni has been the value of relationships, which Zuni Cafe has had with many of you for decades,” Norris said to co-workers in the email. “Your work supports ours and we so frequently receive the glory. I am here for the story and I appreciate the myriad ways you make my story and the Zuni's richer.”

The Zuni Cafe's Roast Chicken for Two in San Francisco, California on Saturday, April 11, 2015.

The Zuni Cafe's Roast Chicken for Two in San Francisco, California on Saturday, April 11, 2015.

The Washington Post/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The baton for the executive chef position is now passed to Anne Alvero. Phillipe Flores Francisco will be the new chef de cuisine and Janice Nasser remains as the general manager, according to the email.

Norris signed the email, “With gratitude, sadness, and excitement for the future.”

Zuni Cafe, located at 1658 Market Street, on the edge of the Civic Center and Hayes Valley, has been a stalwart in the San Francisco restaurant scene for decades. Founded in 1979 by Billy West, the original incarnation of Zuni Cafe served Mexican fare, as West was inspired by his culinary idols Diana Kennedy and Elizabeth David.

In 1987, Judy Rodgers was brought on board and turned it into what it is today. After shifting to a more Eurocentric menu, the accolades started pouring in during the early aughts. Perhaps the refocus to European cuisine is a tell-tale sign of where food media and criticism was at during that period (and long before, for that matter).

In 2003, the restaurant won a James Beard Award for most Outstanding Restaurant in the country, and in 2004, Rodgers won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef.