Gray Kunz's Devastating 2020 Death

Gray Kunz was a worldly chef, whose global roots reached far. His father was Swiss and his mother Irish, per NY Times, while Kunz himself was born in Singapore during the mid-20th century. With this background, Kunz would go on to attribute his multicultural culinary approach to that country's food stalls and markets. There, he said his view of cuisine was expanded, and he was introduced to concepts that extended outside of Europe's traditional cooking philosophy. Nonetheless, he did receive a formal, western culinary-education in Switzerland, starting his apprenticeship as a teenager.

Kunz would later go on to lead kitchens in both Hong Kong and Shanghai. Yet, the height of his career might very well have occurred during his time in New York City — at least for those of us in the States. According to NY Eater, Kunz would make a name for himself in the Big Apple during the 90s. There, he was in charge of the kitchen at Lespinasse, one of downtown's premiere fine-dining restaurants.

Under Kunz, the establishment earned four stars from the Times. Not only did he help introduce new cuisines to Americans, but he was partly responsible for pioneering local sourcing, freshness, and sustainability in New York dining. Kunz was a proponent of vegetable-first menus, as well. Truly, though, Kunz's biggest claim to fame is the way he fused different cultures together on the plate. Dishes like the curried squab ragout with mung-bean crepe or the marinated crab with melon-citrus sauce exemplified his style.

Death and legacy

Kunz clearly left his mark on the world of restaurants. At Lespinasse, he oversaw chefs who would later achieve their own renown. These included Andrew Carmellini and Floyd Cardoz (via NY Eater), as well as Corey Lee and Rocco DiSpirito (via NY Times). Kunz departed Lespinasse in the late 90s and went on to create his own restaurants: Salt & Char, Grayz, Café Gray, and (Michelin star-winner) Café Gray Deluxe. Kunz was still running a Hong Kong and Shanghai branch of Deluxe when he passed away from a stroke at 65 years old in 2020.

Restaurants weren't the only legacy that Kunz left behind, however. He was so particular about how food should be prepared that he designed his own spoon specifically for sauce-making and plating. With a shallow belly and wide handle, the device is now popular among chefs and called the Kunz spoon in honor of its creator. Kunz also wrote a cookbook in 2001, The Elements of Taste, leaving behind a written record of his advice to fellow chefs.

Café Gray Deluxe remembered its creator, claiming, "In a career that spanned more than four decades over three continents, he was revered as the chefs' chef." Kunz's former students had good things to say about him, as well. Carmellini recalled, "Every young chef wanted to learn from him." Meanwhile, Cardoz posted on Instagram, "I remember you telling me in Lespinasse Kitchen that it's always about 'Balance.'" Indeed, Kunz's international-fusion style is worth keeping in mind.