The culinary world is mourning the death of Homaro Cantu, an acclaimed avant-garde chef found hanged Tuesday afternoon in a suspected suicide, NBC Chicago reported.
The 38-year-old’s body was discovered hanging in the same building in Chicago where he had planned to open a brewery, police sources told The Chicago Tribune. An autopsy was planned for Wednesday.Cantu’s wife, chef Katie McGowan, posted a picture on Facebook of the couple and asked people to remember her husband’s charitable legacy. She and Cantu had just celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary in March.
“Among his many gifts, he was the most generous person I ever met,” McGowan wrote, adding: “If you are one of the many many who asked him for a favor, or help, I am positive he made a phone call on your behalf, or found you a job, or comped your meal.”
Cantu grew up in Portland, Oregon, and he spoke publicly about growing up homeless and wanting to fight hunger.
He worked under famed Chicago food guru Charlie Trotter before opening the West Loop restaurant Moto in 2004, cooking up inventive dishes that eventually earned the eatery a prized Michelin star in 2012.
His reputation grew as he infused fine-dining with “flavor-tripping” science. And with his obsession for capturing flavors in a unique — and often playful — presentation, Moto became his laboratory: He concocted a Cuban pork sandwich that looked like a Cuban cigar, and a dessert that resembled a plate of nachos.
One dish had diners eating filet mignon — in the image of a cow, The New York Times reported.
Cantu used his interest with molecular gastronomy and food technology to branch out into other businesses, including opening another restaurant, the now-shuttered iNG, and a Chicago coffee shop called Berrista.
But last month, he came under financial scrutiny after a Moto investor filed a lawsuit alleging the chef improperly pocketed profits in the restaurant to fund his other businesses, according to Eater.com.
McGowan disputed the lawsuit’s claims in her Facebook post Wednesday. “It was just another case of someone trying to make a buck off of him or take credit for his ideas,” she wrote. “If you want his legacy to live on, go try his food, experience his visions. That’s all he wanted.”