On Sunday, Nov. 11, a large crowd gathered at trendy Serpentine Restaurant for a silent auction and benefit and to celebrate the life of popular longtime Serpentine cook Caesar Chuc, who died in October after getting caught up in a brawl at 16th and Valencia streets.
Sipping frothy mixed drinks and munching on spicy tacos in the dimly lit interior, those present spoke of Chuc’s kindness, generosity and commitment to the community. A beloved member of San Francisco’s restaurant community, he had been a crucial part of the kitchen staff at Serpentine since its inception five years ago.
Though he worked in San Francisco, Chuc left behind a wife and four children in a small village in Mexico. He moved to the city years ago, intent on providing his family with a better life, and sent money home in regular installments. Following his death, friends and family mobilized to raise funds for his family in Mexico, and to cover funeral expenses and the cost of transporting his body home. Brandy Rocha, Chuc’s friend and colleague at Serpentine, helped organize the fundraiser held at the restaurant.
“You can tell by the turnout how important the restaurant family is,” said Eric Ehler, a former cook at Serpentine, in a toast to Chuc as the fundraiser came to a close. “We’re all hurt, but we’re coming together to celebrate a life that was lost. It’s been difficult, but we’re a family, and we’re moving through it together.”
Local restaurants and businesses donated artisan items for auction, including a four-course dinner for two with a wine pairing at Jardinière, worth $340; a tasting menu for two with a wine pairing at Fifth Floor, valued at $325; and a Giggling Lotus Yoga unlimited monthly class card.
Themed baskets for the auction included a cheese basket with a reusable tote, marble cheeseboard, cheese knives, snacks and a $20 gift certificate to Cowgirl Creamery; a basket with cooking gear and handmade “foodie” gift tags; and a coffee basket with local beans, two ceramic mugs and a $20 gift card for Starbucks.
Between $4,000 and $5,000 worth of auction items were donated in total, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Chuc’s family. The restaurant also requested a $20 donation at the door. By the end of the night, the auction had raised over $7,000, according to Rocha.
“This is a great thing to do. It’s the neighborhood that’s come out tonight,” said Lisa Sorani, a local patron and regular at Serpentine.
Rocha echoed that sentiment, adding that at least 50 percent of those who stopped by the fundraiser are regulars at the restaurant and live in the neighborhood.
“Everybody really understands how hard this is,” she said. “People have been incredibly generous.”
Serpentine employees and local businesses were equally giving. Bartenders donated their own gratuities to the fund at the end of the night, and various purveyors, including Sutton Cellars and Reno’s Liquor, donated wine and liquor to the bar.
“Every restaurant has a Caesar,” said Ehler. “He was so important to us. He was the hardest worker. He was always smiling, always cheerful, always joking. He had so many friends. There was a lot to him.”