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The Chefs and Food Personalities We Lost in 2016

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From chefs and food writers to inventors and founders

Michel Richard Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Amtrak

In remembrance of those in the food world that we lost this year.

Chefs and restaurateurs

In January, French-Swiss chef Benoît Violier of the Michelin-starred Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville Crissier was found dead in his home in Crissier, Switzerland (45 minutes Northeast of Geneva) at age 44. Violier had presided over the three Michelin-starred Restaurant Crissier in Crissier, Switzerland for nearly 17 years, first as chef de cuisine and then as executive chef. His death was deemed a suicide, and many suspected that pressures related to the Michelin guide were a cause.

In February, a sudden skiing accident left Sam Beall, proprietor of award-winning farm, hotel, and restaurant Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., dead. Beall, a husband and father, was 39. The restaurant community poured out their support and condolences on Twitter.

At the end of the summer legendary French chef Michel Richard died of complications related to a stroke. He was 68. He is remembered for building a catalogue of restaurants that blended American and French cuisine, including his flagship fine-dining American eatery, Citronelle, in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood and later Central Michel Richard. The winner of numerous awards, he was named Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2007.

How do you mourn an internet sensation? Francis, a dog known for co-hosting the long-running “Cooking With Dog” YouTube series, died in November. He was 14.

Food writers and historians

In April William Rice, longtime food and wine writer who spent time working at publications such as the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and Food & Wine, died of a brain disorder. The author and food editor was 77.

At the end of November, noted British food critic A A Gill revealed, within a startling restaurant review, that he had cancer. By mid-December Gill’s death was announced by the Times.

Founders and inventors

Renato Bialetti, the man credited with popularizing the an iconic stovetop espresso maker, died in February. He was cremated and his remains were sealed in a Moka pot.

Peter Mondavi, brother of the late Robert Mondavi and longtime owner of the Mondavi family's Charles Krug Winery, died at the age of 101 this past February.

Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder of the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute), died suddenly in September in a fatal car accident. ICC president Erik Murnighan called Hamilton’s death “a tragic loss for her family and friends, and for all of us in the culinary community who she inspired.” She was 67 years old.

At the end of November the world learned the name Michael “Jim” Delligatti, who died just after Thanksgiving. He was best known as the inventor of the Big Mac.

Peng Chang-Kuei, a chef widely credited with inventing General Tso’s chicken, died at 98 in early December. The dish inspired an innumerable number of copies, and Peng watched the mass proliferation of his dish occur from afar. He didn’t approve of the Americanized versions, calling it “crazy nonsense.”

Inspirational voices

Actor Gene Wilder died over the summer. He will live on in our hearts as the original Willy Wonka, a genius candy inventor with a knack for song and dance.


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