Bravo star Howard “Howie” Kleinberg of “Top Chef” fame died on July 22 at the age of 46. His mother Susan confirmed his death to the Miami Herald and said the fan favorite chef died of a heart attack.
On July 24, she told the publication that she’d received calls from people offering their condolences throughout the weekend and said, “I am just finding out how many lives he touched. He was married to his passion in life, which was his cooking.”
Bravo also issued a statement following news of the “Top Chef” alum’s death. “The Top Chef family is saddened to learn about the unexpected passing of Howard Kleinberg from season three,” the network shared. “Howie’s passion for cooking filled so many and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends.”
According to his obituary, Kleinberg is survived by his mother, Susan Kleinberg Ratner, and his stepfather, Ken Ratner, his sister, Amy (William) Wildstein, and their three children Whitney, Lindsey, and Phillip, and his dog Skye.
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Kleinberg Appeared on Season 3 of Top Chef Where He Placed 7th
Kleinberg appeared on season 3 of “Top Chef,” also known as “Top Chef: Miami,” where he placed seventh overall. The season took place in 2007 and his mother said Kleinberg was cast as the “heavy,” the tough guy, and he got the nickname “Bulldog” on the show.
Kleinberg appears in a compilation of “5 Times Chefs Spoke Out Against The Judges” when he had a quick comeback against Anthony Bourdain. The late chef was lecturing Kleinberg and told him that the first rule of the restaurant business is to “show up on time” and the second rule is to deliver the dish on time.
Kleinberg replied to Bourdain, “That’s fair enough. In your book [Kitchen Confidential] though, there’s a little part that says, about Ecuadorian line cooks I believe, and what does it say, it says you can yell at this person and this person and they’ll give it to you when it’s wrong but these particular people they give it to you when it’s right.”
When Kleinberg brought up Bourdain’s book, the judge laughed and said, “Oh that’s unfair man.” At the end of Kleinberg’s speech, Bourdain simply said, “You son of a b****” with a smile on his face.
Kleinberg Was a Florida Native & Opened a Successful Restaurant After ‘Top Chef’
Kleinberg was a South Florida native and grew up surrounded by a passion for food. According to the Miami Herald, his father Wally Kleinberg started a hot dog company while his mother worked closely with caterers in her career as an event planner. His father Wally died of a heart attack at the age of 34, when Howie Kleinberg was just 6 years old.
After high school, Kleinberg began working in the kitchen at Miami’s Hotel Intercontinental. His mother recounted to the Miami Herald, “He came home the first day complaining, ‘Look how red my hands are!’ But after a couple of weeks, he said, ‘I think I kind of like this.'”
Lee Schrager, the founder of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and a friend of the family, said he “watched his career blossom” after “Top Chef.” Schrager told the Herald, “He was a hard worker, very dedicated and he loved this industry.” After appearing on the Bravo show, Kleinberg opened his own restaurant named after his nickname on the show, Bulldog Barbecue. His obituary stated that he then went on to “pursue more fine dining options.”
Kleinberg was also passionate about certain charities, namely “Taste of the Nation,” which raises money to help children who live with food insecurity. He also contributed to pet shelters and his dog, Skye, was a rescue dog. His obituary stated that “Donations in Howie’s memory may be made to Bullies-N-Beyond Rescue or to Feeding South Florida.”