After suffering fire damage nearly four months ago, a Berkeley icon - Chez Panisse - is poised to reopen to the public on Monday, and get back to doing what this world-renowned restaurant does best: Serve locally grown, organic - and expensive - dishes.
The restaurant reopens tonight for a sold-out, private fundraiser, where proceeds will go to the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley.
Chef, food activist and owner Alice Waters, whose interview with NBC Bay Area's Raj Mathai will air at 6 p.m. today, is thrilled to reopen her doors at her 1517 Shattuck Avenue restaurant.
In the interview, Waters says she is touched by the community's support following the March 8 fire. A young girl sold lemonade - made with Meyer lemons, Waters noted - and gave her $37 from the sales to help rebuild the damaged restaurant.
[RAW VIDEO: Alice Waters Talks About the Fire at Chez Panisse]
Berkeley fire officials suspected it was a faulty electrical system that sparked the fire, which appeared as though it may have started under the porch. A sprinkler inside the building helped quell the damage.
This wasn't just any other fire, and it's not just any other restaurant.
Chez Panisse is the gold star of restaurants to foodies around the globe, and its fire damage quickly drew the attention of news agencies spanning from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Times. Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin, who lives in the East Bay, tweeted she was "so sad to hear about the fire at #ChezPanisse! Such an iconic Berkeley restaurant. Absolutely love that place."
Chez Panisse first opened in 1971, and since then, Waters has worked beyond the restaurant to promote cooking and eating healthy, locally grown food. As one of the most well-known food activists around the world and since 2002, she has served as vice president of Slow Food International.
Chez Panisse was recognized as the Best Restaurant in America by Gourmet Magazine in 2000, and since then, has won several more awards.
When the restaurant reopens on Monday, the fixed price $65 menu will include green bean and roasted sweet pepper salad, bouillabaisse cooked with shellfish and Santa Rosa plum galette with wild fennel ice cream.
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