December 2012

Funds Raised in Honor of Serpentine “Godfather” Cesar Chuc

Yael Chanoff

It seemed like any other night at Serpentine. Lively music played, and the Dogpatch restaurant filled with San Franciscans eating delicious food and sipping cocktails. But last month’s gathering of more than 60 people marked a serious occasion: a memorial for Cesar Chuc. Chuc, who helped build the dining establishment from the ground up, died in October. He was found unconscious on Valencia Street after an altercation involving several men. He was put on life support at San Francisco General Hospital, where family and friends, including the Serpentine crew, collected. He passed away three days later. Chuc is survived by a wife and four children who live in Santa Elena, Mexico. 

Chuc’s co-workers organized the Sunday event to raise the $4,000 needed to send his body back to his family. According to Brandy Rocha, a co-manager at the restaurant, $7,000 was collected, all of which will go to Chuc’s wife and children. “He was a super genuine, amazing person,” Rocha said, who had tears in her eyes as she stepped outside the busy party. “Everybody called him the godfather of the restaurant. Also, he loved the Giants. So this would have been a really good year for him. He died a few weeks before the World Series.”

When Erin Rooney opened Serpentine five years ago, Chuc was her first hire. His job entailed “pretty much handling everything, from paychecks, to labor, to janitorial services,” according to Rocha. Many of Serpentine’s kitchen staff were longtime friends and even relatives of Chuc’s, who had family in the City. “At the hospital, there were a lot of family members there,” Rocha said. Serpentine’s crew, and the restaurant business as a whole, is “like family,” Rocha said. “You spend a lot of time together. Everybody works doubles, everybody is super connected.”

“When you work at a restaurant you tend to have worked at other restaurants. So, everybody here knows somebody else who works in a different restaurant. We got a lot of donations from people that we didn’t even contact, that contacted us because they heard through the grapevine that we were doing something,” said Rocha.

Donations to a silent auction included gift certificates to food and drink establishments, like Slow Club – which is also owned by Rooney – Sutton Cellars, and Piccino. Local artisans, including Austin Press Stationary and Roman Ruby Botanicals, contributed their wares. Neighborhood businesses, such as Third Street Boxing Gym and Double Happiness Yoga, gave items as well.

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