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Chef Homaro Cantu Dies At Age 38

By Staff in Food on Apr 15, 2015 12:25AM

Photography by Michael Silberman of A Sustainable Reality Productions (from Simon & Schuster)

The Chicago Tribune reports chef Homaro Cantu, best known for his restaurant Moto, was found dead Tuesday afternoon on the Northwest Side. Police sources report that his death is being investigated as a suicide. He was 38.

Moto, which had one Michelin star, was known for its innovative, scientifically-minded cuisine. Cantu also opened the now-shuttered iNG, where he pioneered cuisine utilizing the miracle berry, a berry that turns sour flavors into sweet. He also authored a cookbook called The Miracle Berry Diet Cookbook. Last fall, Cantu opened Berrista, a coffee shop dedicated to the miracle berry in Old Irving Park.

The miracle berry concept was part of a recent lawsuit that Cantu was embroiled in with investor Alex Espalin. The lawsuit, which sought financial damages and to force Cantu out, claimed partial credit for the miracle berry concept and that Cantu misused funds.

Earlier this year pastry chef Claire Crenshaw left Moto and just earlier this month Chef Richie Farina departed as well.

Cantu grew up in Washington, where his family struggled with homelessness, an experience that inspired him to dedicate research into the problem of world hunger. Cantu was also one of the driving forces behind the Trotter Project, which aims to further the charitable contributions Chef Charlie Trotter cared deeply about, including nutritional education for students and neighborhoods in need. Cantu was a proud Trotter alum, working in the kitchen at Charlie Trotter's namesake restaurant for four years.

Chef Cantu was a gracious and inviting chef to Chicagoist over the years, welcoming us into his kitchen and letting us document, taste and have fun with all the culinary creativity on display at Moto. His curiosity when it came to food was contagious and a conversation with him would go beyond what was simply on the plate. We have been honored to showcase his work on our site and our thoughts are with his family and friends.

By Melissa McEwen and Lisa White