The cooking community is still mourning the loss of celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, who passed away on Oct. 6 after spending a week in the hospital for an allergic reaction. He was surrounded by loved ones when he died and is survived by four children – son Aiden and daughters Margaux, Felicia, and Giana.
A week has passed since his death, but doctors are still trying to figure out what caused the fatal allergic reaction and some doctors fear they might never determine the exact reason behind his death. What they do know is that he suffered anaphylactic shock as a result of the allergic reaction, which led to his death.
“The doctors don’t know what caused the allergic reaction and neither does the family. They may never know,” a spokesperson for Gruppo Chiarello (Chiarello’s restaurant group) said in a recent news release – adding that the 61-year-old beloved chef had no known allergies or other ailments at the time of his death.
Michael Chiarello was born in Red Bluff, California on January 26, 1962. He learned to cook from his mother, who primarily focused on Italian cuisine – which is where he would find his niche in the cooking community. He started working in restaurants at the age of 14 and it quickly became his primary passion.
He went on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and Florida International University in Miami – ultimately earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management. By 22 years old, he was already the owner of his first restaurant – Toby’s Bar and Grill in Miami, FL, which opened in 1984.
“When I decided to be a chef, it wasn’t what it is today. It was just a trade, not sexy like today,” he said in a 2006 interview. “My father was concerned about me. One of my brothers is a Ph.D., one an attorney. I was a cook. He’d say, ‘The family came all this way from Italy. He could have done that over there.’”
By 1985, he was named Chef of the Year by Food and Wine Magazine. Two years later, he was named executive chef at Tra Vigne in St. Helena – a launching point for his career. By 2001, he was leaving Tra Vigne to embark on a legendary career in front of the camera as a celebrity chef on multiple channels.
He started with a show – Season by Season – on PBS in 2001 and had two more shows with the network before moving to the Food Network with his Easy Entertaining – a show that won him a Daytime Emmy Award in 2005. He was also a contestant on Top Chef Masters and was a beloved judge on Top Chef.
Friends and Colleagues Pay Tribute to Michael Chiarello
With news of his death hitting the airwaves this past weekend, many of his closest friends and colleagues took to social media to remember what was a life well-lived. The impact he had on the culinary arts was tremendous and he will forever be cherished by those who followed his career for the past six decades.
“A very sad day for me personally and the culinary world. My thoughts and Prayers go out to family and team mates. RIP my Dear friend you will be sorely missed,” said Robert Irvine, an English celebrity chef best known for his roles on TV and his two restaurants – one in Las Vegas and one inside The Pentagon.
“One morning in the ‘90’s, Michael Chiarello met me at his Aspen restaurant, Ajax Tavern, where we exchanged philosophies on hospitality,” said Shake Shack founder, Danny Meyer. “He described our way of leading as ‘constant, gentle, pressure.’ Those words became the centerpiece of how we teach the ‘Salt Shaker Theory.’”
Michael Chiarelli will definitely be missed, especially by his family – who have asked fans and followers to donate to Meals on Wheels in lieu of sending flowers and other gifts. They also asked for privacy while they mourn the loss of their patriarch and announced he would be laid to rest in a private funeral service.
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