In Memoriam: Food and Drink Figures Lost in 2013

A look back at the memorable, the innovative, and the unforgettable people the culinary world lost in 2013
Charlie Trotter, Jason Cevallos, and Marcella Hazan were just a few key figures who died in 2013.

The culinary world lost some greats in 2013. So it’s only fitting as everyone looks forward to 2014, to take a moment to look back on those we lost – to remember them and thank them for their struggles and successes, their accomplishment and advancements in their lives in general, but specifically in worlds of food and drink.

Fred Turner, the former McDonald’s chief executive often credited with helping to create the Chicken McNugget, passed away in January at the age of 80. Turner is also credited with upping the ante for McDonald's internationally, especially as he led the creation of McDonald's Hamburger University in 1961, where students can receive a degree in "Hamburgerology" and a diploma from the school "Universatis Hamburgerensis McDonald's." Turner was also a co-founder and life trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Read More: Fred Turner, McDonald’s McNugget Father, Dies at Age 80

Paul C. P. McIlhenny, the chairman and chief executive of the Louisiana-based McIlhenny Company best known as the producers of Tabasco hot sauce, died of a heart attack in New Orleans in February at the age of 68. McIlhenny spent 45 years with the company, which was founded by his great-grandfather, Tabasco inventor Edmund McIlhenny, after the Civil War. The company grew by leaps and bounds during his tenure, largely due to the introduction of new products like Buffalo-style and chipotle sauces, as well as partnerships with brands including Cheez-Its and A-1 and a branded product line of items like boxers and teddy bears.

Read More: Tabasco Chief Executive Dies at 68

John Alleman, known around the controversial Las Vegas restaurant Heart Attack Grill as “Patient John,” suffered a heart in February at the age of 52. Alleman wasn't on the company's payroll, but was known as the unofficial spokesman, showing up as a caricature "Patient John" on the menu, clothing line, and other merchandise. Alleman stood outside the doors of the restaurant on a daily basis, convincing customers to try the restaurant known for offensively caloric menu items.
Read More: Unofficial Spokesman of Heart Attack Grill Dies of a Heart Attack

Gerry Galvin, the well-liked chef turned writer acknowledged as a pioneer of modern Irish cuisine died in March of an aneurysm in Galway at the age of 70. Establishing himself first at his Kinsale restaurant The Vintage in the port town of County Cork in the 70s and early 80s for being a serious restaurant serving “country” food in an era where it wasn’t done. After selling The Vintage, Galvin’s cuisine at the Drimcong House in Moycullen in County Galway was a must destination on any knowledgeable Irish food lover's itinerary until it closed in 2001, when Galvin became a regular contributor of recipes and thoughtful articles on food to a variety of Irish magazines and newspapers.
Read More: Gerry Galvin, Pioneer of Modern Irish Cooking, Succumbs at 70

Jim Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley, Calif., died in March at the age of 86. Barrett rose to industry fame in 1976 thanks to an article in TIME. Thousands of miles away in a wine shop in Paris, his 1973 chardonnay won a blind taste test against a series of high-end, expensive white Burgundies. At that time, California was not called "Wine Country" — it was what Old World vintners considered a joke. A joke they choked on when a humble bottle from America blew their efforts out of the water. Eventually referred to as the "Judgment of Paris" — and the centerpiece of the movie Bottle Shock — the tasting of Barrett’s wine is considered the event that put California wine on the map and helped spur decades of growth, production, and respect for the region.
Read More: Jim Barrett, California Wine Pioneer Dies at 86

Harry Lewis, the actor perhaps most well-known for his part in the 1948 film noir “Key Largo”, who discovered success as founder of Hamburger Hamlet, died in June in Beverly Hills at the age of 93. Credited by many for having invented the "gourmet burger," Lewis’ success at duplicating the dining experiences at his national chain, which at one point numbered 24 outlets, is acknowledged as having helped pave the way for similar other concept restaurants.
Read More: Hamburger Hamlet’s Founder Passes Away

Elmer T. Lee, one of the Kentucky bourbon pioneers and master distiller emeritus for Buffalo Trace Distillery, died in July at age 93. Lee was responsible for bourbon's revival thanks to single-barrel bourbon. With the release of Blanton's, the world's first single-barrel bourbon, in 1984, Lee's mark on bourbon was forever made. Single-barrel bourbon boomed, and the Kentucky bourbon industry followed. Lee retired in 1985, but continued to advise distilleries and became an ambassador and distiller emeritus for Buffalo Trace. He was inducted in the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001, earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from Whisky Advocate in 2002, and Whisky Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Hall of Fame induction in 2012.
Read More: Bourbon Distiller Elmer T. Lee Dies at 93

Sylvia Wood, the founder of the legendary Sylvia’s restaurant died in July at the age of 86. Wood first opened her restaurant in 1962 after purchasing a luncheonette space from the owner that she formerly waitressed for – her mother mortgaged her family’s farm in their hometown of Hemingway, South Carolina to loan Wood the money to buy the place. Fifty years later Sylvia’s has expanded past the walls of its Lenox Avenue location, now offering a lounge know as Sylvia's Also, a full-service catering company and hall, a nation-wide line of Sylvia's food products, cookbooks, and a real estate firm all while still being family operated.
Read More: Queen of Soul Food DIes

Colin Devlin, the man behind DuMont and DuMont Burger, considered the purveyors of one of New York City's greatest burgers, and the Michelin-starred restaurant Dressler, died of apparent suicide in Pennsylvania in July. Devlin was a culinary pioneer in Williamsburg, contributing to establishing the neighborhood, and the borough as one of the city’s culinary destinations.
Read More: Dumont Owner Chef Colin Devlin Passes Away

Penelope Casas, the Woman Who Introduced America to Real Spanish Food, died in August at age 70. Described by The Daily Meal’s Colman Andrews as “the American who knows all about Spanish food”, this Greek-American from Queens introduced her readers to tuna-filled empanadillas, gently garlicky sopa de ajo, arroz a banda (rice cooked in rich seafood broth), chicken with figs, duck with olives, and real gazpacho and paella. She wrote the first comprehensive book on tapas for Americans, followed by volumes on Spanish rice cookery (paella and beyond), home cooking, regional specialties, and more.
Read More: Penelope Casas, Woman Who Introduced America to Real Spanish Food, Dies at 70

Marcella Hazan, history-making author of The Classic Italian Cookbook, died in September at her home in Florida. She was 89. Marcella Hazan's cooking is famous for its commitment to freshness and simplicity. In 2000 she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation.  Hazan was born in Italy and came to the U.S. with a Ph.D. in natural sciences and biology. She initially cooked for her husband, then she began teaching Italian cooking classes out of her New York apartment. Those classes went on to become a lifelong career for both the Hazans. Hazan wrote The Classic Italian Cookbook in 1973, which earned her a reputation for being the Julia Child of Italian cooking.
Read More: Marcella Hazan, Famed Italian Cookbook Author Dies at 89

Kadir Nurman, a Turkish immigrant who was credited as a founder of the popular Berlin fast food called the doner kebab, died in October at the age of 80. The street food is made from meat sliced from a rotating skewer, a practice common in Turkey, then layered with a salad inside a flatbread. Nurman who set up a stall in West Berlin back in 1972 and did not patent his invention, helped popularize a food that these days, the Association of Turkish Doner Manufacturers in Europe estimates numbers  some 16,000 doner outlets in Germany, with more than 1,000 spots in Berlin alone.
Read More: Inventor of the Doner Kebab Passes Away

Jason Cevallos, one of Chicago's best bartenders, passed away in November the age of just 35. Cevallos was part of a team that won the James Beard award for Outstanding Bar Program. Cevallos previously worked at Brasserie Jo, Perennial, 33 Club, and Folklore. His most recent job was a sous chef for the cocktail programs at The Office and The Aviary. He died in Asia due to salmonella poisoning complications.
Read More: Chicago Mixologist Jason Cevallos Dies at 35

Art Ginsburg, a television chef known better as 'Mr. Food' during the three decades that he was on the air, died in November at his home in Florida at the age of 81. While he didn’t have the national branding of many nationally-known television chefs, Ginsburg was locally famous, endearing himself to home cooks via 90-second segments syndicated to 125 local television stations across America. According to The Huffington Post, Ginsburg published 52 Mr. Food-related cookbooks, selling more than 8 million copies.
Read More: Mr. Food Dies at 81

Charlie Trotter, the renowned Chicago chef who may have introduced the tasting menu to America and who helped revolutionize the dining scene, died of a stroke in November in Chicago at the age of 54. Named the country’s Outstanding Chef by James Beard Foundation in 1999 and recipient of the Beard Award for Outstanding Service in 2002, Trotter also received the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year award in 2012, in part for creating the Charlie Trotter Education Foundation to provide scholarships for culinary students. He was often credited with running one of the best restaurants if not the best restaurant in America. Trotter had closed his famous namesake restaurant after 25 years last August, with plans to return to graduate school to study philosophy and political theory.
Read More: Charlie Trotter Passes Away

Judy Rodgers, the “quiet giant of American cooking” and Chez Panisse alum who beginning in 1987 with Zuni Café in San Francisco helped redefine casual California dining, died earlier this month at the age of 57. While she wasn’t a TV superstar, Rodgers was a chef and a cook and a restaurant owner, and she quietly won the hearts and excited the palates of just about everyone who ever ate her food. Rodgers' menu was religiously seasonal, but the basics never changed very much: impeccable oysters, house-cured anchovies with celery and Parmigiano, a definitive Caesar salad, and above all a brick-oven-roasted chicken for two, with bread salad and greens, and at lunchtime a pizza with Wagon Wheel Cheddar and an irresistible grass-fed burger on grilled rosemary focaccia were always on offer and never failed to delight. Zuni was one of those restaurants that everybody who knew and appreciated real food — as opposed to trendy fodder — always went whenever they came to San Francisco.
Read More: What Judy Rodgers Meant to American Cuisine

Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet and playwright known for his lectures on poetry and criticism, his translations (including a famous one of Beowulf), a couple of plays, and above all for an immense outpouring of verse, died in Dublin in August at age 74. Heaney, who won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote on many subjects — history and legend, family, other poets, Ireland itself — but much of his work was grounded in farm and rural life. He wrote about hay bales, a cow in calf, landscapes, barns, and trees. And he wrote about food not so much the cooked variety (though there were exceptions) but the raw materials, the sustaining treasures of his country's rich soil and generous waters.
Read More: Seamus Heaney, Whose Poems Celebrated Blackberries, Oysters, and Potatoes, Dies at 74

John Egerton, the writer on Southern history and food, died of a heart attack in Nashville this November at the age of 78. Egerton, an independent journalist and author, earned respect as an historian and cultural analyst for his books “The Americanization of Dixie” and “Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South.” But it was his book “Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History” that brought him acclaim from the country’s food-lovers. John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, once called it “the closest thing to a definitive book on Southern cooking.”

Todd Mills, the idea-man behind the billion-dollar Doritos Locos Taco fast food mash-up that gained national attention this year died on Thanksgiving from brain cancer at the age of 41. Mills, who Taco Bell called a “true friend” of the company, started the Facebook page "Taco Shells from Doritos Movement" in 2009. The experiment paid off big-time for Taco Bell, exceeding a reported $1 billion in sales.

Jimella Lucas, the longtime Long Beach Peninsula chef who with her partner Nanci Main helped raise the profile of Pacific Northwest cuisine, died of cancer earlier this month at her home in Oysterville at the age of 69. Lucas and Main established became nationally known chefs by using the Peninsula’s abundance of fresh seafood and produce first at The Ark Restaurant in Nahcotta, Wash., which they bought in 1981, and later with a seafood market and deli in Klipsan Beach, eventually with Jimella and Nanci’s Market Café. The two also authored four cookbooks, including “The Best of The Ark and More!”

Think we missed a key culinary figure who died in 2013? Please let us know in the comments and feel free to memorialize them. 

Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor. Read more articles by Arthur, reach him by email, or click here to follow Arthur on Twitter.

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