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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.
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