Caesar Chuc, the beloved neighborhood cook who moved from Mexico to the United States to provide his family with a better life, passed away this week at San Francisco General Hospital. He was 39 years old.
Chuc, a longtime cook at the popular restaurant Serpentine, was found unconscious at 16th and Valencia streets on Tuesday, Oct. 16, after police officers broke up a turbulent brawl. According to police, Chuc was attacked by a group of five men of undetermined age after a verbal argument escalated into a physical fight.
Serpentine staff members and friends are rallying support to raise money for Chuc’s family. With the funds generated, they plan to send Chuc’s body to Mexico, where an official funeral will be held.
Friends say Chuc’s heart stopped after the altercation, possibly the result of a recently diagnosed diabetes condition.
“We found out that he had diabetes a week or two before, and that it had been untreated for quite some time,” said Brandy Rocha, Chuc’s friend and colleague at Serpentine. “He was concerned but not yet getting full treatment for it. I think it’s important for people to get checked up. It could have been something as simple as him not getting checked up regularly.”
Friends and family members crowded the halls of San Francisco General Hospital to extend their support for Chuc, a generous man with a penchant for helping others in times of need.
“Most of the staff showed up the night we found out things were critical. The entire restaurant crew went over there as well to check in on him. The owner, the chef, everyone was there,” said Eve Benson, a friend of Chuc’s and former server and manager at Serpentine.
Those who worked with Chuc say he was a compassionate “godfather” of the kitchen. Plugged into the restaurant network and the Yucatan community of San Francisco, he had a large group of friends he would often hire as kitchen help.
“He was the sweetest, he was the guy that was in charge of everybody. He did a lot of hiring, handled the janitorial services for Serpentine as well as recruiting kitchen staff. He would bring guys on and was just in charge, and those guys trusted him with everything. They trusted him with their money, their homes,” said Rocha.
But Chuc didn’t just give back to his friends in San Francisco. According to coworkers, he regularly sent money to his community in Yucatán, Mexico, to support people with medical expenses, as well as youth sports and activities.
This money went to people he “didn’t even know,” said Benson. “If there would be people in the town that had medical issues, [he] would send the money back for whatever was the need in the community.”
Despite his strong presence in the San Francisco Yucatán community, Chuc had his heart set on Mexico. With a wife and four children in Sancha Elena, Mexico, he worked tirelessly to send money back, so that one day he could return home with more than when he left.
“He told me he was ready to go home to Mexico next year because he missed his family,” said Rocha. “He really loved his family and really wanted to just go home. It’s awful because he just wanted to provide for his family.”
But even in the face of tragedy, the Chuc family ideal of giving back to the community perseveres. Chuc’s wife, currently in Mexico, chose to donate his organs to San Francisco General Hospital, in the hope that they will help someone in need.
“He meant a lot to me, and he meant a lot to the restaurant,” said Rocha, choked with tears. “He was a Giants fan. He was really into baseball. He would be thrilled right now. We were watching game 7, and [my boyfriend] turned to me and said, ‘Caesar loved the giants. He would be really happy right now.’”
Chuc’s death is currently under investigation by the San Francisco Police Department.
Serpentine restaurant will hold a benefit, tentatively scheduled for next week, to raise funds for Chuc’s family. We will announce the details as soon as they become available.