July 6, 2012 Comments (10) Views: 6563 In Memory

Dan DeMatteis

Picture courtesy of Melissa Yu

It is with great sadness that we learned of the sudden tragic death of Chef Dan DeMatteis on Wednesday the fourth of July 2012.

His passing has sent tremors throughout our culinary and hospitality community as to say that Dan was well-liked would be a tremendous understatement.

Words cannot begin to express the grief felt by so many of us who came to know and love Dan through having worked alongside him over the years.

Our collective thoughts go out to his family and friends in what are undoubtedly difficult times.

Chef Brad Long, Belong Café:

The gentlest lumbering giant touching leaf and green.    

Dan didn’t so much work as wallow in the kitchen.  

He was the kitchen.  

He nourished.      

He harrumphed at frill and waste.  

He held precious the simplest, the honest, the clear and clean.

Dan gracefully soared the kitchen thermals while awkwardly tossing pan and


Work and ethic.

Ethic and love.

Connecting cook to ingredient, ingredient to ingredient,  ingredients to

hand, hand to plate.     

He somehow just knew.  

How did he know?

Dan, we love you and we won’t forget, I promise, but we may get a little

hungry now and then.


Chef Jamie Kennedy, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens:

Sad news of Dan Dematteis’s passing has sent shockwaves through the gastronomic community. Sweat and tears streamed down my face as I rode my bike through the city yesterday afternoon, trying to put this tragedy into perspective. No matter how hard I tried, the information would not sink in. It just bounced off. I expect it will be some time before I am at peace again.

For now my thoughts turned to the man whom I have known for years. I met Dan in my office at the ROM where he had stopped by to ask if he could volunteer in my kitchen. I sent him out to Superior to work with Ken and Thaya; the best place to start. I got to know Dan well over the many years we worked together. Dan had a unique, intellectual approach to his work. We discussed cooking and all matters relating to food. We shared a particular zeal for the work of SlowFood and the ideology of celebrating and protecting traditional foodways in the wake of the industrial era. He was drawn into our field because I think he felt he could make a difference; that he could raise the bar. He recognized the currency of the work we were doing in the local food movement. He was emerging as an important leader in upholding the values of community based economies in food.

I hang on to his thoughtfulness as I struggle to grasp anything that makes sense of what has occurred. So thoughtful and considerate he was of his many friends and acquaintances in his community. So thoughtful he was about the role we play as arbiters of taste, helping to educate and direct others in making sound decisions around the provenance of our food with a focus on ethical production in ways that ensure excellence today and guarantee excellence to future generations.

Dan, you are the man, thank you for reminding us to be thoughtful in all that we do and of everyone we meet.

Tobey Nemeth, Edulis Restaurant:

I shared a lot of french fries with Dan over the many years I have known him, and a lot of talk about sausages of different varieties, and ice cream, and why green bell peppers don’t belong on restaurant menus. He even e-mailed me to tell me that Ferran Adria, when Dan cooked for him at the Wine Bar, told him through his translator that he will not eat green peppers. We shared a transatlantic wondrous laugh over that. We shared a lot of laughs in general.

Dan was affectionate, funny, smart as hell, and an outstanding, natural, genius of a cook. He had a calm, quiet devotion to beautiful food, and a reverence for the people who craft it. We were kindred spirits in our love of delicious things.  His generosity, his gentleness, his sincerity, his affectionate nature made him a great friend. We had coffees and too many croissants in Vancouver, and he came on the train to visit us Tuscany, where we ate and ate and he folded himself up to fit in our tiny tiny car and drove with us on impossible dirt tracks to find magical restaurants for more feasting. He was a good egg, as they say – a great egg. The Dan-shaped hole in our universe we now face is just so tremendously sad and unfair.


Annette Bruley, a close friend of Dan’s, recently communicated the following information regarding a memorial for Dan via Facebook:

Dan’s family have decided that they would like to hold his Memorial sooner than later, and have decided to hold it this coming Monday at the Young Welcome Centre at The Brickworks. Brad Long and Renata Clingen will be hosting the memorial. 

To reiterate Renata’s request, if you have any photos or written stories you would like to share, please forward them to renata@cafebelong.ca as soon as possible so that they may be used for the memorial. 

Due to the change of events, we’ve decided to cancel the Done Right Inn gathering. Having said that, I think there will still be some of us hanging out at The Done Right Sunday night so please feel free to join.


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10 Responses to Dan DeMatteis

  1. Ryan says:

    Well written words by all. I didn’t know Dan, but by all accounts he was a gem of a man. Sorry to hear of this.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I worked with Dan for almost a year at JK’s and he was such a kind soul who always put up with my oddities and the fact that I was still learning. He was always patient and willing to teach. My very deepest condolences to all those who hold him near and dear.

    Much love.

  3. Antony John says:

    Tina and I were introduced to Dan through Jamie and Toby, and then connected by him to Brad. Their eloquence is about an accurate a summation of Dan’s wondrous personality as you can get. He made us want to work harder to reach his standards, and his thoughtfulness is the first thing that came to my mind thinking about his life. He embodied my benchmark of a great crafter of food. Authentic, artisinal, and enduring. Our sincerest and deepest sympathies to Dan’s family and his restaurant family as well.

  4. Heather Heagney says:

    I worked with Dan at the JK Wine Bar, and got to know him during my time at Hank’s and Gilead. Dan and I shared a love of music and we both had family from Rochester, NY. I will always remember his kind, gentle spirit. Being new to the culinary scene at the time, I was comforted by his generosity and welcoming nature as he he took the time to get to know me and help me along in my journey. My thoughts are with his family, close friends and colleagues.

  5. spencer says:

    i worked with dan at union rest on ossington. such a good guy, many good times there. always happy, positive and was always the first person to help wherever needed. surrounding yourself with ppl like dan makes every aspect of your life that much better. my thoughts go out to every person he has touched over such a wonderful life

  6. Dylan Fischer says:

    I worked with Dan at JK Wine Bar. To say that Dan was thoughtful, compassionate and nurturing is a massive understatement to his character. He showed rigorous passion and intensity for his craft and his philosophy, and he engaged everyone around him to share his fire. His abilities as a chef were matched only by his kind nature and his gentle words; Dan helped many cooks, my self included, through hard personal times, and he would not hesitate to offer his wisdom to ease your mind. My thoughts go out to Dan’s friends and family. We will miss you brother, now and always.

  7. Bruce Byng says:

    Wow, this giant of a man was one of the few people that can give you honest knowledge in such easy terms, Fond memories of me being on the receiving end of his craft,Truly a sensational loss for our culinary community. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered in a way like no other
    My sincere condolences to the family and co workers!!

    Bruce Byng
    Teatro Limon Puerto Vallarta Mexico

  8. So sorry to hear of Dan’s passing. Our deepest aimpathy to his family and many friends and colleagues. We met Dan several times, he was a kind person. May he rest in peace. God Bless. Dennis & Denise Harrison.

  9. […] Toronto-based culinary websites have paid tribute to Dan, here, here and here. A website has also been established for friends to share their thoughts, memories […]

  10. […] to overhaul. The notice of Sedlak’s death comes on the heels of the passing of Dan DeMatteis, the well-loved executive chef at Café Belong who was only a few years older than […]

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