He was a mentor to me. One of my favorite chefs and as I approached my final graduation, a friend.
He was 65 and died of a heart attack in his sleep. He was the first instructor hired for the culinary program at my school and all the recipes we used in the first few labs were his creations. He designed the program. He taught there for 13 years and realistically probably taught half the people working in kitchens in this area (4 new classes a year).
The chef instructors, faculty, staff, and students are numb. Everyone knew him, even those not in culinary. Everyone in culinary loved him.
One friend said, he was so good, why does it seem the good ones always leave us.
He loved when he would taste a students food and it wasn't seasoned enough, he would taste, then begin with this 'can you hear that'? What chef the student would always ask. Then he would very quietly say 'hep me' in his Swiss-German accent. Student would respond with a pardon me or something like that. He would say, the food, it is screaming 'hep me' I NEED salt.
He was hysterical and had a wealth of knowledge about food and cooking. He began as an apprentice in Switzerland when he was 9 years old. Not a typo, NINE years old. He left home and lived in a room above the kitchen and for 2 years was essentially a slave to the chef, but he said he woudln't have done it any other way because of all he learned.
He came to here by accident. He was flying somewhere else (South America somewhere) and in mid-flight, the pilots went on strike. His plane was closest to here, so that's where they landed. This was 1966. He was stuck here with little money and no way to get anywhere, but he could cook. He went and got a job and stayed here. He was going to retire in a year or so and move back to Switzerland.
I was at work when I got the call. Work is maybe a mile from school, so I went there. It was really hard, seeing these men, chefs (like baseball, there's no crying in the kitchen) that are always so tough and stoic, all looking as if they had just been crying or could not wait for their class to end so they could go cry.
I'm really freakin bummed and feel like I could cry for days. I'm gonna miss him.
Oh yeah, the reason God required Peter home. He was tired of his food tasting like Peter's wife's food and/or being totally bland. We did have a laugh over God's lasagna screaming 'hep me'.
God bless you Chef and thank you.