Every year at the Academy Awards, the show pays homage to famous film names who passed away in the previous year. Even though enjoying food is an intrinsic part of our lives, there is no similar public homage to the chefs, food writers, cookbook authors and restaurateurs who make our world a better place to live.
In 2010, we lost several important figures in the world of food:
Bill Binder (February 28, 1915 – January 28, 2010)
Los Angeles’ landmark Philippe’s restaurant, known for its French Dip sandwiches since at least the 1950s, lost its long-time operator with the death of William “Bill” Binder, who died at the age of 94. Bill was a brewer who took over Philippe’s when his wife’s father died. Though construction provoked a location change, Bill stayed true to the original menu, which proved to be a winning formula through the decades.
Rose Gray (January 28, 1939 – February 28, 2010)
It was at Rose Gray’s Michelin-starred River Cafe that Jamie Oliver was first noticed, and an entire generation of accomplished chefs credit the British food writer, chef and restaurateur as an influence. Her series “The Italian Kitchen” was a success on British television’s Channel Four.
Carol Fay Ellison (1961 – April 5, 2010)
Known as “The Biscuit Lady,” Nashville’s Carol Fay worked for the Loveless Cafe for over 30 years, turning out picture perfect biscuits that garnered nationwide acclaim. The bubbly Carol Fay made appearances on talk shows with Martha Stewart, Conan O’Brien and Ellen DeGeneres, and even competed in a biscuit throwdown with Bobby Flay.
Jean Vergnes (November 29, 1921 – April 22, 2010)
One of Manhattan’s most celebrated restaurants, Le Cirque, was co-founded by Jean Vergnes, a classically trained French chef who died this year at 88. Vergnes had previously taken over the famed Colony restaurant kitchen in the ’50s, propelling it to critical acclaim and popularity. His menu was praised by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who became regulars at Colony.
Egon Ronay (July 24, 1915 – June 12, 2010)
Food writer and critic Egon Ronay parlayed his knowledge of cuisine into the UK’s popular series of restaurant guidebooks bearing his name. It soon became a symbol of status for an eatery to display the logo signifying a mention in the books. The guides were also noted for refusing advertising or complimentary meals.
Michael Batterberry (April 8, 1932 – July 28, 2010)
Starting out as a freelance food writer, Michael Batterberry (along with his wife, Ariane) founded and edited the highly regarded magazine Food & Wine, with the mission of providing a more accessible, down-to-earth alternative to Gourmet. The Batterberrys received the James Beard Foundation lifetime achievement award just last May.
Elaine Kaufman (Feb. 10, 1929 – December 3, 2010)
In the case of New York City’s famed restaurant Elaine’s, the personality was far more significant than the eatery. Known for extending credit to writers and actors at the beginning of their careers, Elaine’s was always packed with folks as diverse as Woody Allen, Pavarotti and Willie Nelson. She even got a shoutout in Billy Joel’s “Big Shot.”
FAMOUS NAMES IN THE FOOD WORLD WHO DIED IN 2009