Hank Rubin (1916-2011)

March 4, 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 Public 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 column 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 answered the common – and not so common – questions encountered in cooking.

During this time, he also became a popular guest lecturer in several Berkeley elementary 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.


3 Responses to “ Hank Rubin (1916-2011) ”

  1. Steve Tarzynski on June 29, 2011 at 12:57 am

    What a splendid life! An inspiration to us all. Thank you for your service, Hank.

  2. Robert Hauser on December 13, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Rubin and I would have been shooting at each other…the only “inspiration” clowns like Rubin are to me is to strive that much harder against the very Wall Street financed jewish bolschevism that trashed the Russian continent and was responsible for the murder of 60 million Russians in the oxymoronically misnomered “workers’ paradise”—not that Franco glowed in the dark nor was any excuse for a Platonic philosopher king either. But just as sociopathic and totally deranged and nationally suicidal as America’s current meddling in the Mideast is today and its misbegotten support of Israel, so was the volunteering of dimwit, starry-eyed ideolog adolescent com-dupe Americans of the 1930s interfering in the affairs of Europe in the 1930s on behalf of Wall Street communism and not having brains enough to know it….and that’s Rubin.

    By the way…I used to dive pearls at Cruchon’s on Shattuck in Bersekeley when it was run by its original owners—Norma and Jerry Flannery and it sure as the Hell wasn’t “fully integrated by race”—we had far better regard for our regulars who were the true intellectual elite of the day and had more intelligence under their little fingernails than any of the off-the-wall counterfeit limo “liberals” we are cursed with in this country today with the “obama” stickers on the bumpers of their Testarossas.

  3. Marsha McCoy on October 12, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    My mother, Jane McCoy, who died this year at age 92 and was a longtime resident of Berkeley, used to love to go by Cruchon’s for their delicious pastrami sandwiches. Part of Berkeley culinary history and remembered by many.