Family, friends remember late Bay Area and celeb chef Michael Chiarello

Prominent Bay Area celebrity chef and restaurateur, Michael Chiarello has died.

The 61-year-old chef died Friday night at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa. His company says Chiarello had been hospitalized for the last week following an acute allergic reaction that led to anaphylactic shock.

Chiarello was the host of cooking shows on PBS and the Food Network and operated several restaurants in San Francisco and the Napa Valley, including notable eateries Bottega and Coqueta. 

"This is a big loss for Yountville," said AJ Eisiminger, vice president of sales for Napa winery Jessup Cellars. "He was definitely kind of one of the big Mount Rushmore heads of the restaurants here in Yountville, which has been kind of the culinary epicenter for our restaurants here in the Napa Valley."

Tributes have been pouring in for Chiarello, who is being remembered as a pioneer on the Napa Valley food scene who specialized in Cal-Italian cuisine.

Frank Rich, the owner of Calistoga-based Frank Family Vineyard described the late chef in a statement Sunday as "a culinary genius" who "helped put the valley on the culinary map." 

Rich added, "Michael was the kind of friend who was always there to support you, even when he needed support himself."

In an email to KTVU, Chiarello's family asked for privacy, but noted in a statement, "his legacy will forever live on in the love he poured into every dish and the passion he instilled in all of us to savor life's flavors."

At the entrance to Bottega in Yountville, the late chef's staff honored his memory with a large poster bearing his face. 

"He was there all the time. He definitely engaged his guests," said Eisiminger. "I was there with my girlfriend and came over, sat down next to our table, just chopping us up. He was just a very personable guy."

While Chiarello is largely remembered for his positive contributions to the culinary world, he did face some legal troubles, including accusations of sexual harassment in 2016. He denied the claims and settled out of court.

Chiarello will be laid to rest during a private service. His family is asking for donations to Meals on Wheels in lieu of flowers.