Homaro Cantu, the 38 year-old internationally known head chef and owner of Moto in Chicago, was found hanging in his restaurant on Tuesday afternoon. Cantu is well known around the world for his innovative style of cooking, that involved not just excellent fine dining, but a blend of science as well.
According to NBC, Chef Cantu died by asphyxiation, and his death has been ruled a suicide by the Cook County Medical Examiner.
Cantu’s body was discovered hanging on Tuesday afternoon around 1 p.m. inside his new restaurant, Crooked Fork Brewing. Homaro’s new venture was located in a building at 4400 West Montrose on the Northwest side of Chicago. He had plans on opening up the new restaurant with his longtime business partner and friend, Trevor Rose-Hamblin.
Several well known chefs have made comments to the media about the hole that is left in the culinary world now that Cantu is gone. Celebrity chef Rick Bayless, most known for his PBS cooking show, Mexico: One Plate At A Time, made a statement regarding Cantu’s death to NBC Chicago on Wednesday afternoon.
“He was one of the most innovative chefs in Chicago and when you think about him not being on the scene you have to think that the firmament of Chicago chefs is going to be a little less bright than it was because he had so much to offer.”
Homaro Cantu was born on September 23, 1976, in Tacoma, Washington, to mother Laura Cantu. For several of Cantu’s most important formative years growing up, he lived homeless and poor with his mother and sister, Angela Cantu. After high school, Homaro decided he found his one true passion, food, and he decided to pursue his dream by attending the Western Culinary Institute, which is now known as Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School.
After he graduated from culinary school, the young chef decided that in order to be the best, you need to work with the best, so he took a very unique approach to this, by working for absolutely no money in over 50 of the top restaurants along the West Coast. In 1999, he packed up all his belongings and made a huge move to Chicago to work with renowned chef Charlie Trotter. Cantu worked for Trotter until 2003, before deciding to go out on his own and help open Moto.
When Moto first opened, Chef Cantu started to gain world and national attention for doing crazy and innovative things with food. He invented things such as a small table top box that cooks fish right before the guests’ eyes at table-side, edible menus, carbonated fruit, and synthetic wine that was put in the glass with a medical syringe. As executive chef for Moto, Cantu earned the restaurant a Michelin star in 2012, that Moto retained up until his death.
With the success of Moto, Cantu opened a second restaurant called iNG, which Catu based on an original concept that he created called flavor tripping. Homaro used a special kind of berry that made sour foods taste sweet. After the closing of iNG, Cantu would move his concept into the coffee-house he opened, called Berrista.
In a 2012 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Cantu would describe how he approached problem solving when it came to different aspects of his life.
“I was just taught very early that if I didn’t solve problems, I was headed for a very dark path. Problems were everywhere. Now even if there are no problems, I look for problems. I’m like, you know what? I don’t like the way this spoon works. I want to design a new spoon. Or I don’t like the way my phone integrates with my desktop… I want to come in and talk to my computer.”
Chef Cantu’s death leaves behind a huge hole in the not only the food industry, but also in the lives of the family and friends that knew and loved him. Cantu leaves behind his wife Katie McGowan, who went on social media to thank well-wishers, and their two young daughters.
“If you want his legacy to live on, go try his food, experience his visions. That’s all he wanted,” she said.
[Photo courtesy of Chicagonow.com]