I recently received the sad news that Chef Michael D’ennery passed away on Sunday March 15.
Many of us remember Chef Michael D’ennery when he was creating memorable dinners throughout central New Jersey. I remember him for that and more.
A close friend of ours is a close friend of Michael’s mother. Through them, we met Michael and his wife Kitty several years ago. We all (except for Michael, who was on the job) had a wonderful dinner at the restaurant he was involved with at the time in Keyport, and Michael joined us at table after he’d prepared the last meal of the night. I liked him instantly. In spite of the age difference, we had a lot in common. Dinner was sensational. We saw him once again shortly after that.
A relatively short time later, Michael left that venue and we lost track of his whereabouts. We learned that he had abandoned the high pressure world of restaurants and had become a private chef.
Later we learned that the reason for the career change was health related. This development was delivered to us by Michael first-hand when we saw him a few weeks ago at D’Artagnan’s Cassoulet Wars annual event in NYC. He was there as the guest of our friend, who we invite as our regular guest when we attend every year. It was great seeing him and catching up, it had been many years, and we learned that the reason he gave up restaurants was that as a relatively young man, he had developed a cardiac condition that forced him out. In addition to modifying his line of work, he’s become an avid cyclist, which was a passion we shared. The four of us had a great time that night, sampling cassoulet from the 30 or so stations, and drinking lots of Cahors, Minervois and Armanac. We promised we’d reconvene in 2021, if not sooner.
But tonight I received the sad and shocking news that while on a ride this past Sunday, Michael suffered a fatal heart attack. I’m still processing this.
Michael was immensely talented. He was also warm, funny and very personable, and despite his gifts, completely without pretense. But for the distance and his crazy schedule, we would have seen more of each other. Like us, he and Kitty loved to garden. When we saw each other in February, he and I talked about getting together for a bike ride. And of course we love food. I’m devastated, and feel an immense and irreplaceable sense of loss. RiP, Michael.