BERKELEY -- Three months after a fire caused the renowned Chez Panisse to close its doors, the staff is busy preparing for Monday's grand reopening.
The March 8 fire, the result of an electrical fault beneath the porch, led to slight changes within the restaurant, said David Prior, Chez Panisse spokesman. The porch was reconstructed and built from salvaged redwood, windows were replaced and the building was repainted.
Prior didn't know the actually cost of the repairs, but he said it was more than the original $200,000 estimate.
About 117 people who work for the restaurant have been involved in the reconstruction. However, changes have not diminished the appearance of the restaurant.
"It's in many ways more beautiful than it was," Prior said. "It's sad to lose the historic part of the building, but it's just as beautiful and only slightly different."
Some other changes include a new bar, updates to the kitchen and a larger front patio. Hours will remain the same and the restaurant is booked through until July, Prior said.
On Friday, ahead of the reopening, the famed restaurant founded by Alice Waters is hosting a fundraiser for the Edible School Yard Project. Typically the fundraiser occurs in the spring, but because of the fire, this is the first opportunity to host the private event. Prior said the fundraiser sold out immediately.
Support from the community was evident in letters and phone calls of support after the fire, Prior said. It was then that staff began to understand that the restaurant not only belongs to employees but also to the community, he added.
"It's a huge family and a community built around the restaurant," Prior said. "The community of Berkeley has been extraordinary in getting the restaurant back on its feet. It's good to be back."