CHICAGO — Chicago avant garde chef Homaro Cantu, known for using science to create unique dining experiences at his Moto restaurant, committed suicide, officials said on Wednesday.
Cantu, 38, was found to have hanged himself on Tuesday afternoon, police said, in a northwest side building where he had planned to open a brewery called Crooked Fork later this year. The death came less than a month after Cantu was sued by an investor in his one Michelin-starred establishment.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that the cause of death was asphyxiation/hanging, and that it was a suicide.
Cantu had worked for acclaimed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter before becoming a chef himself. He later owned the restaurant Moto, which was known for using a high-tech and whimsical approach to dishes that included edible menus. Cantu also used lasers, particle guns, helium and liquid nitrogen to cook.
Moto’s website said its “vision of gastronomy may at some times appear to be a note taken out of a far out science-fiction novel.”
Cantu, who worked in nearly 50 West Coast kitchens before moving to Chicago, told Reuters in a 2008 interview, that he wanted to get people to think differently about food.
“When people see these products I’m coming out with they’re going to realize what’s been going on here isn’t just some guy making wacky food,” he said. “We’re making things that are going to change the world.”
Cantu’s death highlighted the stresses and high stakes of today’s celebrity chef world. Trotter died in 2013 at the age of 54 from an aneurysm.
Cantu was sued on March 19 by investor Alexander Espalin, according to Cook County court records. Espalin accused him of using Moto’s business bank account for personal use, including trips and the development of patented products.
Fellow chefs and foodies mourned Cantu’s death on social media, with former Oprah Winfrey chef Art Smith tweeting “RIP Chef Homaro Cantu you brought science to cuisine.”
Cantu was married with two young daughters. His wife, Katie McGowan, posted on Facebook that Cantu “truly believed that he could change the world by just working a little harder or coming up with a new idea,” she wrote.
In an apparent reference to Cantu’s legal troubles, McGowan wrote, “It was just another case of someone trying to make a buck off of him or take credit for his ideas.” (Editing by Mary Milliken and Bill Trott)