Hank Rubin’s obituary (1916-2011)

February 28, 2011

Marci Rubin, daughter of the late Lincoln veteran Hank Rubin, suggests that donations in Hank’s memory be made to ALBA.

Obituary for Hank Rubin – May 21, 1916-February 24, 2011
Hank Rubin, father of the Berkeley Food Revolution and well-known writer about food and wine, died in his sleep Thursday, February 24, 2011. He was born in Portland, Oregon, and spent most of his life in California, first in Los Angeles, then in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1950. He was 94 years old.
Mr. Rubin was a lifelong advocate for social justice — a passion that drove him to leave UCLA in his junior year as a pre-med student and enlist in the first major fight against fascism in Europe, the Spanish Civil War, where he fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a contingent of American volunteers. His book, Spain’s Cause Was Mine, published in 1997, described his experiences, first as the head of a machine gun company, later, after a bout with jaundice, as a medic who drove an ambulance that tended the wounded, often made painful triage decisions, and brought home the dead.
He came home from Spain in 1939, a battle-scarred veteran at 23, and returned to UCLA to finish his undergraduate degree. Two years later, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in United States Army where he served in the Pacific theater from 1942 until 1945. After the war, he was accepted into the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley where he earned a Masters degree, then went to work for the Contra Costa Pub-lic Health Department.
In 1960, he became the owner of the Pot Luck restaurant in Berkeley which, with his innovative approach to food, wine, and service, developed into the East Bay’s premier restaurant during the 1960s and early 1970s. Reviewed by food writers as a star of the Bay Area dining, he developed a wine list that caught the attention of wine lovers and critics across the country. He also owned Cruchon’s, a notable sandwich, salad, and pie
restaurant near the Berkeley campus. His were the first restaurants in the Bay Area to be fully integrated by race and gender.
After his retirement from the restaurant business in the mid-1970s, he focused his energies on writing about food and wine. He wrote “The Wine Master,” a weekly col-umn in the San Francisco Chronicle, for 15 years, served as the General Manager of Bon Appetit, Wine Editor for Vintage Magazine, wrote many articles about food and wine, and in 2002 published The Kitchen Answer Book, an essential tool for any cook, that an-swered the common – and not so common – questions encountered in cooking.
During this time, he also became a popular guest lecturer in several Berkeley ele-mentary schools, teaching children about the wonders of food and the need, as he said, to respect their bodies by putting wholesome food into them. In 1990, he and his wife, Lillian, moved from their long time home in El Cerrito to San Francisco. There he taught classes about cooking and the restaurant business in several Bay Area public high schools.
Hank Rubin was a man beloved by all who knew him for integrity, his generosity of spirit, and his lifelong commitment to service in the community, to his profession, and not least to his family. He is survived by his wife Lillian, daughter Marci, grandson Blake and his wife Margaret and great-grandson Edward.


One Response to “ Hank Rubin’s obituary (1916-2011) ”

  1. Jalna Amar on February 5, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I grew up across the street from Hank and Lillian Rubin.

    My younger brother and I were old souls and took to visiting our elder neighbors on a regular basis. We were not typical bratty kids -despite our horrible family life, we were both old and wise beyond our years which made us seek out time with the older, wiser residents of our treasured neigborhood.

    Lillian was a prominent psychologist/Therapist during my childhood. Often I would paddle across the street for a visit. We would sit and chat like two old ladies with the weight of the world on our shoulders. Not being a typical “kid” she welcomed my visits. I only wish now that I was able to recall those visits. I’m sure she was able to ascertain the kind of person I would become.

    Looking back on it now, Hank would come over to our house,offering to my parents (complete alcoholics and none the wiser about fine wine) a beautiful dalliance of red wine from his cellar. God what I would not give now for a bottle treasure from Hank’s personal cellar.

    Anyway, he would graciously present his prized treasure to my parents because he was a kind soul and as a thank you to my father, an electrician, who regularly helped our neighbors and would not accept an compensation in return. Hank was a wonderful endearing person that I truly loved very much. Hank made me happy. I can even recal on several occassions giving and receiving big bear hugs. Lillian, in all her scholarly glory, always made me feel special. Both of them helped counteract a very violent and troubled up bringing.

    I remember the day he bounded over to our house in excitement over his new restaurant venture – Narsai David’s. My parents were actually excited at this venture as we had a close family friend that had shared with us many of his Assyrian cultural specialties via numerous dinner invitations to our entire family (Love you Nadji).

    We were a close knit neighborhood who looked out for each other, supported each other, and shared the excitements and disappointments in life.

    I wish that I had possessed presence of mind to look Hank up before now. I am surprised and happy to know that he lived until last year. I faintly remember Marci – she was older and out of the house when I was younger.

    I wish that I had been able to learn more from him in my adult years, but the many moments we shared during my childhood are priceless.

    God rest your souls Hank and Lillian Rubin and know that you taught me a great deal.