It’s that time of year for the two-way mirror.
Meaning the culinary world needs to pause and look back and honor the greats who’ve died in the year just ended before we look ahead and race to the next big food trend or cooking star.
Every year at the Oscars, the Academy Awards ceremony salutes its cinematic artists who passed away in the preceding year with the annual “In Memoriam” segment.
Curiously, there is no such memoriam for the great chefs and other culinary artists who have left their mark on the world of cuisine.
They and their epicurean achievements need to be recognized.
Last year this Examiner honored those who died in 2012. And with the Oscar nominees just announced, it is a reminder to put a spotlight on the luminary chefs who died last year and to pay homage to their contributions and talent to the world of food and drink.
The chefs deaths are a curious mix of suicide, murder, stroke, and auto fatality, along with natural causes for only one.
Keep their culinary conversations alive…
Ten Chefs who died in 2013
1. Charlie Trotter – Chef Charlie Trotter was an iconic chef who was fanatical about serving local, homegrown, seasonal ingredients long before it became de rigueur. His “Tasting Menus” were recognized as his “stock in trade” – and this too launched a dining trend that has since become a dining tour de force at so many restaurants. Further, Chef Charlie Trotter’s legacy includes “cross training” an “honor roll” of great chefs who went on to open their own star-studded dining establishments. In 2012 Trotter was honored by the JBF Foundation with the Humanitarian of the Year award. Trotter was 54 years old when he died from a stroke.
The Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation was launched January 10, 2014 at the James Beard House. Among other initiatives, the foundation will fund “culinary programs for young people,” and a Center for Excellence hosting seminars and lectures.
2. Marcella Hazan – A cook and cookbook author, Hazan is credited with teaching Americans how to cook Italian food – much like Julia Child did introducing French cuisine to this country. Often called the “godmother of Italian cooking, Hazan wrote five cookbooks and in the early days was a wine writer. A true culinary legend, her death sparked an outpouring of food memories from the food world and home cooks alike. She was an educator – a dedicated teacher through her books and cooking schools – started in her apartment and later through her expanded School of Classic Italian Cooking. A featured chef in this Examiner’s The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook, Chef Rosa Ross, chef and owner of the North Fork’s Scrimshaw restaurant studied for a time with Hazan while living in Italy. Hazan is a multiple James Beard Award winner: for Italian cooking, Cookbook Hall of Fame, Lifetime Achievement and Mediterranean Cookbook.
Born in Italy, Hazan was 89 when she passed away September 29 in Florida.
3. Ria Pell - chef and owner of Ria’s Bluebeard Café died November 25 in Atlanta. This irrepressible chef was a TV personality, winning an episode of “Chopped” on the Food Network. She was also a featured chef on the “Cooking Channel” where she showcased her signature breakfast of spicy brisket and eggs. She won over legions of fans with her “gourmet Southern classics.” From biscuits to buttermilk, hand-sifted pancakes topped with caramelized bananas that locals and celebrities like Jane Fonda acknowledge as the “Best in the City.” Pell wrote that her success was due by and large to her devotion to ingredients and recipes from her Danish grandmother and New Jersey mother “who inspired her to cook delicious food.”
Pell was 44 years.
4. Colin Devlin – The award-winning Brooklyn chef and popular restaurateur was found dead in Pennsylvania July 26, with a gunshot wound to his head. Reports were that Devlin was despondent from financial issues and committed suicide after being denied a business loan. Reports vary – some claim police found him lying face down in Chestnut Hill Cemetery near his country house there in Allentown, others say he was found in his car near the graveyard. Some reports say there was no note, others say he left a short note to his wife. Still others say he texted her. At the time of his death Devlin owned two Williamsburg restaurants: the DuMont and DuMont Burger. He closed Dressler a month before his death. Opened in 2001, DuMont mixed comfort food with refinement years before the rest of New York thought to do so,” according to GrubStreet, citing the “DuMac & Cheese” brimming with Gruyere and lardons as one particularly exotic example. Devlin hailed from Philadelphia, worked at Balthazar and Diner before opening the first of his three restaurants, beginning with the DuMont in Williamsburg – in what was then an outpost of New York - where he secured a large and loyal foodie following. Devlin was 42 years old.
5. Robert Farrar Capon was a lifelong Episcopalian priest and chef and food writer. Capon seems to have lots of culinary karma going for him. Perhaps channeling the 12 apostles to produce his dozen books, and with a name like Capon - it might be divine intervention that led him to cookbook writing and his unique reflections on life and reality, wonder and living life more fully. Reviews noted how his books were “thought provoking treatises on everything from prayer to poetry to puff pastry.” Capon was born in Queens in 1925, was a parish priest in Port Jefferson, New York from 1949 to 1977 and died September 5 on Shelter Island. Noted most for his book, “The Supper of the Lamb,” a cookbook that was reprinted as a Modern Classic. The 87 year old had long advocated for a “Zen mindfulness about food and drink” and wrote about food and wine for both the New York Times and Newsday.
6. Judy Rodgers Chef & cookbook author of Zuni Café Cookbook – published in 2002, died December 3, 2012, was noted for her refined simplicity, according to the New York Times. Her plates were both “rustic and urbane.” Rodgers landed the chef position in 1987 at the already-established San Francisco Zuni Café, creating rustic French and Italian inspired cuisine. A signature dish was her roast chicken.
Born in St. Louis in 1956, Chef Judith was a 16-year old exchange student in France and worked for the family who owned Les Fréres Troisgros. She moved to the Bay Area in 1974 to study art and soon was cooking lunch at Chez Panisse.
Rodgers is quoted, “… The food you eat every day is the most important food. This is what we do at Zuni.” Rodgers died from appendix cancer. She was 57
7. Josh Marks – a “Master Chef” finalist and runner up, Marks was just 26 when he killed himself October 12 with a gunshot blast to his head. His family is quoted saying he was in “the battle of his life fighting mental illness” blaming the lack of mental health treatment ate easy access to guns as factors in his tragic death, according to CNN.
The very tall chef – 7 feet 2 inches in height – was referred to as a gentle giant was managing a bipolar disorder and suffered a mental breakdown when he told Chicago police he was “possessed by ‘Master Chef’ judge Gordon Ramsay, who turned him into God,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
8. Mike Nozawa - This Germany-based, top Japanese chef was killed May 16th on the German luxury resort island of Sylt, by two diners who claimed they were unhappy with the chef’s preparation of fried noodles. In what has been reported as bar fight, chef Mike Nozawa was attacked and beaten by two men who claimed the Nozawa’s beef, vegetable and fried noodle dish was not to their liking, according to the “thelocal.de.” Nozawa was an internationally known chef, recognized for his Italian-Japanese fusion cuisine and sometimes called the “chef to the stars.” It has been reported that Nozawa cooked for Mikhail Gorbachev, Phil Collins, Naomi Campbell and Denzel Washington.
9. Josef Desimone – Facebook’s first executive chef, he came to Facebook from Google in 2008, adhering to her personal connection to Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg. He died in a motorcycle accident July 22.
Business Insider reported Mark Zuckerberg CEO told the Facebook employees, “Chef Josef joined us in 2008 and built our culinary team from a handful of employees in a single café into a global team with dozens of world class restaurants. He never compromised on quality while maintaining total attention to detail. Josef played an incredibly important role in defining our culture during those first years and right up to the present.
Away from Facebook, Josef was just as energetic and driven. Almost every weekend he was volunteering with veterans’ organizations, hosting firefighter breakfasts or supporting some other valuable cause. He had a strong belief in giving back more in life than he took, and it shows in all the people who mourn him today.”
9. Randall Copeland – Favored up and coming Dallas chef, Randall Copeland, died April 2. The 39-year old chef was co-owner of Restaurant Ava and Boulevardier, a French bistro, died in his sleep from unknown causes. Nicknamed “Big Cat,” Copeland was known for his spirit and the life of the party. According to Dallas Culture Map, Copeland’s cooking ad a lot of soul with a rustic, simplistic approach.
10. Chef John Paul Euber - San Francisco Greens restaurant chef, since 2004, was killed in an auto accident May 3 when he lost control of his SUV. Euber, 32 was cited by Greens executive chef Annie Somerville “as a very multi-talented person… A very accomplished person.”
Side note: A 2013 investigation into the suicide of French chef Bernard Loiseau the chef who inspired Pixar’s Ratatouille (the favorite movie cited by chefs on the red carpet at the 2013 JBF Awards) committed suicide after learning his Michelin ranking was under attack, reopened the suspicion of cover up by the Michelin Guide. Fifty-two at the time he shot himself in the mouth with a hunting rifle, Loiseau was one of only twenty-five French chefs to achieve Europe’s highest culinary award: three stars in the Red Guide, according to the New Yorker. He was considered France’s most famous chef at his apex. And international ambassador for Perrier-Jouet champagne. He published eight cookbooks. It has been reported chef Loiseau suffered from depression and was pushed over the edge by the food world rankings.