Chef Homaro Cantu, whose trailblazing, futuristic style earned accolades for his restaurants Moto and iNG, was found dead this afternoon, according to the Chicago Tribune. Cantu, who was 38 years old, appeared to die by hanging, according to the police. His death is being investigated as a possible suicide. The Michelin-starred chef was discovered around 1 p.m. in the building where he planned to open a brewpub, tentatively named Crooked Fork.
"I'm saddened, I'm broken up," Trevor Rose-Hamblin, former Moto general manager, told the Tribune. "This guy was my best friend. He was going to be my business partner."
Cantu was born in Tacoma, Wash. and grew up in Portland, Ore. He attended Le Cordon Bleu and proceeded to work in more than 50 kitchens up and down the West Coast in his teens and early 20s before landing at Charlie Trotter's in 1999. He worked with Trotter for four years before leaving to open Moto on the Near West Side of Chicago.
His now-shuttered restaurant, iNG, championed the miracle berry, a small fruit that had the effect of making sour foods taste sweet. He also actively worked the miracle berry into his creations at Berrista, a coffeehouse concept that opened last December. Cantu actively embraced technology in the kitchen; his bio on the Moto website describes him as a "real-life Willy Wonka," proudly stating that he was the first chef to zap food with a class IV laser, and that his goal as a chef was "introducing new technologies into the kitchen and enticing 21st century diners to embrace unimaginable edible creations."
In recent weeks, however, the state of Cantu's restaurant empire was in jeopardy following a lawsuit filed by a Moto investor. In the suit, filed on March 19 of this year, Alex Espalin sought to force Cantu out of the restaurants, alleging he was owed back profits from Moto and that the chef used the restaurant's bank account for personal items. At the time, Cantu told Eater Chicago the lawsuit was without merit, declining further comment. Updates as they become available.
• Famed chef Homaro Cantu, owner of Moto, found dead on Northwest Side [Chicago Tribune]
• All Homaro Cantu Coverage [ECHI]