Famed Chicago chef Homaro Cantu found dead in apparent suicide

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2015 12:56 PM

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago avant garde chef Homaro Cantu, known for using science to create unique dining experiences at his Moto restaurant, has died of an apparent suicide, police sources said on Wednesday.

Cantu, 38, was found dead on Tuesday afternoon, police said, in a northwest side building where he had planned to open a brewery called Crooked Fork later this year. The death came less than a month after Cantu was sued by an investor in his one Michelin-starred establishment.

An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

Cantu had worked for acclaimed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter before becoming a chef. He later owned the restaurant Moto, which was known for using a high-tech and whimsical approach to dishes that included edible menus. Cantu also used lasers, particle guns, helium and liquid nitrogen to cook.

Moto's website said its "vision of gastronomy may at some times appear to be a note taken out of a far out science-fiction novel."

Cantu, who worked in nearly 50 West Coast kitchens before moving to Chicago, told Reuters in a 2008 interview, that he wanted to get people to think differently about food.

"When people see these products I'm coming out with they're going to realize what's been going on here isn't just some guy making wacky food," he said. "We're making things that are going to change the world."

Cantu's death highlighted the stresses and high stakes of today's celebrity chef world, where diners expect continued innovation. Trotter died in 2013 at the age of 54 from an aneurysm.

Cantu was sued last month by investor Alexander Espalin, according to Cook County court records. Espalin accused him of using Moto's business bank account for personal use, including trips and the development of patented products.

Fellow chefs and foodies mourned Cantu's death on social media, with former Oprah Winfrey chef Art Smith tweeting "RIP Chef Homaro Cantu you brought science to cuisine."

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Bill Trott)