James Kent, Chef Who Was Building a Restaurant Empire, Dies at 45

James Kent, Chef Who Was Building a Restaurant Empire, Dies at 45

James Kent, a distinguished chef and profitable Manhattan restaurateur who appeared poised to develop into a food-industry tycoon, died on Saturday. He was 45.

His dying was introduced by Saga Hospitality Group, the holding firm of his two eating places, Crown Shy and Saga, and his cocktail bar, Overstory, that are all in the identical constructing within the Financial District of Manhattan. The assertion didn’t specify the place he died or the trigger.

In 1993, when he was a 14-year-old rising up in Greenwich Village and already working at a restaurant, Mr. Kent’s mom made him knock on the door of their constructing’s latest resident — the movie star chef David Bouley. The younger man requested if he may spend time in Mr. Bouley’s kitchen. Mr. Bouley stated sure. He spent the summer season working at Bouley, the chef’s TriBeCa mainstay.

Before lengthy, Mr. Kent was additionally working at famed New York City eating places like Babbo, Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park and NoMad, the place he turned the chief chef.

He opened his personal restaurant, Crown Shy, in 2019 with a accomplice, Jeff Katz, the overall manager of Del Posto, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan that closed in 2021. “At Crown Shy, the Only False Step Is the Name” learn the headline of a “critic’s decide” assessment by Pete Wells, the restaurant critic of The New York Times. (The identify refers to tall timber’ tendency to not permit their higher tales to develop entangled with the branches of their neighbors.)

Mr. Wells wrote that Mr. Kent’s dishes “often over-deliver.” He singled out for reward “an virtually absurdly creamy purée of white bean hummus beneath a fiery purple slick of melted ’nduja;” a beef tartare with toasted walnuts and rye croutons; and oysters served with “cucumber jelly, diced cucumbers, grains of jalapeño and microleaves of purple shiso.”

The Times restaurant columnist Florence Fabricant agreed, describing Crown Shy’s menu in a 2019 article as “eclectic and inventive.”

Two years later, Mr. Kent gained 4 extra tales in the identical constructing, an Art Deco skyscraper at 70 Pine Street in-built 1932.

Crown Shy occupies the bottom flooring; Floors 62, 63, 64 and 66 of the constructing had been reworked from government boardrooms for A.I.G., the insurance coverage firm, into Saga, Overstory and a personal eating room. The house consists of 12 terraces “with breathtaking views in each route,” Ms. Fabricant reported in 2021. Saga’s “seasonal tasting menu” in the present day prices $298 per particular person.

Crown Shy garnered one star from the Michelin restaurant information. Saga earned two.

It was positive eating worthy of the European custom, however with American casualness and the embrace of popular culture.

Mr. Kent performed Wu-Tang Clan and the Notorious B.I.G. at Crown Shy. He eschewed a proper costume code. With his chef coat he may usually be seen carrying costly sneakers.

After years of doing graffiti whereas rising up, he turned referred to as “a chef that’s additionally a wildly gifted graffiti artist,” as Bloomberg reported in 2016. He was commissioned to do art work at NoMad Hotel and the restaurant tech firm Salido.

“I’ve walked into these fancy eating places and I don’t really feel welcomed,” Mr. Kent instructed Bandit, a operating model and weblog. He hunted for Crown Shy, he stated, to be “our technology’s restaurant.”

All this appeared so as to add as much as a profitable enterprise method.

In April, The Times reported that Mr. Kent and Saga Hospitality Group had leased 3,000 sq. toes on the bottom flooring of the previous Domino Sugar refinery in Brooklyn for a bakery and a “informal all-day restaurant.”

The identical month, The Robb Report described but extra bold plans. Mr. Kent was opening a brand new 140-seat restaurant on Park Avenue impressed by the Grand Central Oyster Bar, the place his grandmother, Sue Mingus, first went on a date with the jazz musician Charles Mingus, who turned her husband and whose legacy she took cost of securing till her personal dying in 2022.

At the identical time, Mr. Kent was additionally planning a fast-casual fried rooster sandwich restaurant on the extent of Shake Shack, The Robb Report stated. LRMR Ventures, a personal funding agency of LeBron James and his buddy and enterprise accomplice Maverick Carter, was backing Saga Hospitality Group’s growth.

Investors “consider Kent’s a uncommon, multidimensional expertise who’s primed to develop into the subsequent nice American restaurateur,” The Robb Report wrote.

“When I walked into 70 Pine seven years in the past, I used to be one particular person,” Mr. Kent stated. “It’s not like I used to be Daniel Boulud with an enormous crew, and I constructed all of the methods — every part — that we would have liked to function on this degree.”

Jamal James Kent was born in 1979. His mom was born in Rome and his father was born in Tangier. He grew up in Greenwich Village.

In an interview with the tea model Kettl, he described his upbringing as poor and stated he needed to work “as a younger child” in a restaurant owned by his uncle and his uncle’s finest buddy to make cash. Then his mom inspired him to introduce himself to Mr. Bouley.

He studied meals service and culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, and he took half in a examine overseas program at Le Cordon Bleu in London and Paris.

He grew up in an Islamic family, and when he utilized for jobs as a younger man, he used his center identify, frightened about Islamophobia, he instructed Eater in 2022.

As Mr. Kent turned extra profitable, he was related significantly along with his tenure at Eleven Madison Park, “the equal of Harvard for bold younger cooks,” Pete Wells wrote in 2023.

The Saga Hospitality announcement of Mr. Kent’s dying listed as his survivors his spouse, Kelly Kent, and his kids, Gavin and Avery.

Mr. Kent spoke at size about how onerous he labored. He stated that he observed himself trying fatigued in pictures. He described as soon as having a panic assault displaying as much as work. He stated operating had helped him really feel extra grounded.

“Before operating, I solely had skilled objectives,” he instructed Bandit. “I used to be like, ‘I need to be one of the best, be taught from one of the best, and run these unimaginable eating places.’ And then I obtained to the purpose the place, with out the non-public objectives, I used to be on the ground pondering I used to be going to die.”



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