SFist is beginning a new series in which Bay Area natives and long-time residents can share their stories from bygone eras. Our inaugural story comes from Bev DeBeaumont Warnecke, who worked at Baruh Wholesale Liquors in the late '50s, a job that gained her a unique view into the social lives of elite Bay Area business owners. Take it away, Bev! Warning: The last photo in the gallery is not suitable for work (NSFW).
by Bev DeBeaumont Warnecke
The “Gentleman Chefs” Club (Gent Chefs) was a social club started in the late 50's by a group of prominent businessmen from Oakland, including Bozo Miller (Baruh Wholesale Liquors), George Royal (Alpha/Juilliard Wholesale Liquors), Al Ghirardelli (President Bank of America and then founder of First National Bank of Oakland), Bill Fiset (Oakland Tribune columnist), Al Puccini (Sea Wolf Restaurant), Mitch Hoffman (Mitch’s Restaurant), Bob Mortensen (Mortenson Carpets), Charlie Sargent and Irene Sargent (East Bay couturier), to name a few.
The group met once a month for lunch in the banquet room at a selected restaurant in the Oakland/Bay Area. The owner of each host restaurant became an honorary Gentleman Chef. Most restaurant owners went on to become active members of the Gentleman Chefs Club. Guest dignitaries who attended the luncheon meetings, such as Jimmy Durante, became Honorary Gentleman Chefs. All the elected officers of the Gent Chefs were given titles such as “Chief Potato Peeler," "Chief Salad Dresser," "Chief Salt Shaker," "Chief Meet Carver,"...you get the picture.
The purpose of the Gentlemen Chefs Club was to have “fun”. At the monthly meetings events were scheduled for the coming months and included jaunts to Las Vegas, Reno, California Race Tracks (all for Chefs and male guests only) and Dinner/Dances (for Gent Chefs and their spouses and guests). One of the most fun events scheduled was the annual Miss Barbary Coast contest. Tickets were sold to the event and cash awards was given to the winners, the largest award going to *Miss Barbary Coast”.
Outside guests were sometimes invited to the Gent Chefs monthly meetings and since I worked for Baruh Wholesale Liquors, I was a guest at a meeting where the Chefs gave me a “Baby Shower” when we adopted our first baby. I was also a guest for my birthday one year. My sister Carolyn Berkowitz, who worked for
Alpha/Julliard Wholesale Liquors at the time, was given a “Wedding Shower” and a also Birthday Party at a monthly meeting. At the meetings I attended as a guest, the Chefs would put on Mickey Mouse hats and sing the full Mickey Mouse Club anthem, which was hilarious!!
All of the Chefs were known for their outrageous pranks. One that comes to mind was a weekend jaunt they made to Las Vegas. During their stay in Las Vegas, they attended the floor shows and had their pictures taken, some pretty risque with the showgirls sitting on their laps. Unknown to the Chefs, Bozo Miller had matchbook covers made with the photos on front and handed them to their wives when they returned home. I have no idea when or how the Club disbanded.
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