Remembering Richard Warren Mazzera, Chez Panisse business manager, founder of César

Richard Warren Mazzera was born on November 11, 1957, in Stockton, CA.  He transitioned on December 15, 2019, at 62 years of age, after a year-long battle with cancer.

While Richard was attending California State Polytechnic University, in Pomona, he worked briefly for rock musician Jackson Browne.  After graduating college, Richard went to work for Chef Ken Frank at La Toque in Los Angeles in 1983, at the recommendation of Patrick Terrail of Ma Maison.  “I knew Richard was special right from the start,” says Ken Frank. “I can count on one hand the employees over the last 40 years that have been instant lifelong friends. His relentless positive attitude towards life was infectious and for me, really defined who he was, a gem of humanity.”

Richard moved back to the Bay Area in 1985 to work at Porto Bello and Victoria Station.  In 1986, Richard was hired by Alice Waters to handle the business management for her internationally renowned restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Richard brought Chez Panisse into the world of modern business management with computerized systems for payroll and inventory for financial reporting. “Richard joined the Famille Panisse when we most needed his skills and talents,” says Alice Waters.

After working with Alice Waters and Chez Panisse for 12 years, he opened his own tapas bar César (next door to Chez Panisse in Berkeley) in 1998. A second location, Bar César of Oakland was opened in 2006. Richard and his wife Terumi opened Assemble Restaurant, located in Richmond in February 2013, and in July of 2016, they opened Table food + drink in Rancho Santa Fe.

“I met Richard Mazzera in about 1978 when his sister Nancy was the secretary of my manager, and Richard, who was studying restaurant management in Pomona, would sometimes help out at the office,” says Jackson Browne, the musician. “We became really good friends at the wedding of my engineer, Greg Ladanyi, in Aspen. Richard was one of the funniest people I had ever met. I remember several hilarious dinners there, and we continued to be great friends after, as he became the maître d’ at Ken Frank’s La Toque on Sunset Blvd., in Hollywood. When he began working with Alice Waters in Berkeley, he and Alice began a long tradition of cooking meals for the volunteer crews who worked at the numerous benefit concerts we performed at in the bay area. In this way, he and Alice distinguished themselves as being volunteers also, just like the musicians, and indeed, the promoters like Tom Campbell and Bill Graham, all of whom cared deeply about the environment and human rights, and aligned themselves with the movement for social justice in the seventies and onward to the present.”

“Richard was one of the funniest people I had ever met,” says the musician Jackson Browne.

“Richard was a very courageous person as well. He once followed and tracked a person he saw who was very likely committing murder on a highway, contacted the police, and helped them apprehend that person at considerable personal risk. Humble, funny, and generous, he and his wife Terumi were always at our shows with food for the crew and often hosted the band at their restaurants after. My heart goes to Terumi and their kids Jack, Kate, Kiyomi and Serena for the huge loss of their father and friend. My deepest condolences to Richard’s first wife Lori his sister Nancy, and his mother Virginia.”

Richard Warren Mazzera is survived by his wife of 13 years, Terumi Shibata Mazzera, his children Jack McFarland Mazzera (29), Kate Elizabeth Mazzera (27), Kiyomi Justine Doty (27), Serena Ashley Doty (24), his first wife Lori Mazzera, his sister Nancy Mazzera McGregor and his 91-year-old mother Virginia Warren Mazzera.

Services will be held privately.