A famous celebrity chef with a fondness for barbecue has sadly passed away at a relatively young age.
North Miami’s Howard “Howie” Kleinberg, a former contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef” competitive cooking show, was just 46 years old, Fox News reported.
“Top Chef” mourns the loss of a former competitor
“The #TopChef family is saddened to learn about the unexpected passing of Howard Kleinberg from season three,” the official Twitter account for Bravo Top Chef posted Tuesday. “Howie’s passion for cooking filled so many and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends.”
Kleinberg had been a fierce competitor on that show during season three in 2007 but ultimately placed seventh among all of the contestants, according to Fox News.
After that competition had concluded, Kleinberg returned to his hometown of North Miami, Florida, and opened his own restaurant called Bulldog Barbecue, which was an homage to his nickname on the “Top Chef” show as well as his favorite breed of dog.
Died of a heart attack
The Miami Herald reported that Kleinberg’s death was confirmed by his mother, Susan, who revealed that her son had died over the weekend of a heart attack.
“I am just finding out how many lives he touched,” she told the Herald in reference to the deluge of condolence calls she had received. “He was married to his passion in life, which was his cooking.”
Sadly, his early death mirrored that of his father, Wally, who had run a hot dog company but died of a heart attack at age 34 when his son was only 6.
As a young adult, Kleinberg reportedly struggled to find his calling in life, but with the aid of his mother and one of her friends, Lee Schrager, the founder of the famous South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the young Kleinberg got his first cooking job in the kitchen of downtown Miami’s Hotel Intercontinental.
Kleinberg became a regular participant in that South Beach festival and garnered the attention of the festival’s culinary director, Terry Zarikian, who helped the aspiring young chef earn a spot on Bravo’s cooking competition show.
The family asks for support for Kleinberg’s favorite causes — rescuing dogs and feeding kids
Kleinberg was laid to rest during a funeral service Tuesday and is survived by his mother Susan, his stepfather, his sister and her three children, and a rescue dog he had adopted named Skye.
The Herald noted that Kleinberg’s family requested that any donations that friends and fans would like to make in his honor should be directed toward Bullies-N-Beyond Rescue or to Feeding South Florida, in light of his two major passions beyond cooking — rescuing bully breed dogs and providing food for hungry children.