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James Kent

Restaurant community mourns the death of James Kent

The New York City chef of Crown Shy, Saga, and Overstory was 45

Chefs, restaurateurs, and friends from across the country expressed devastation and sadness at the loss of James Kent, who died on Saturday. The cause of his death has not been disclosed.

Saga Hospitality Group, the holding company of his restaurants Crown Shy and Saga, and his cocktail bar Observatory, announced his passing.

“We are heartbroken to share that James Kent passed away unexpectedly earlier today,” the company announced on Saturday.


A post shared by SAGA NYC (@saga_nyc)

Kent was a beloved fixture on the New York City restaurant scene who worked his way up the ranks of some of the city’s most prestigious restaurants, including Bouley, Babbo, and Jean Georges. When he was sous chef of Eleven Madison Park, he represented the United States in the biennial Bocuse d’Or competition in Lyon, France, in 2011.

He went on to be chef de cuisine of that restaurant before becoming executive chef of another of that group’s restaurants, NoMad.

In 2019 he opened his own restaurant in Manhattan’s financial district, Crown Shy, followed two years later by Saga and Overstory.

Another fixture in New York’s dining scene, chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, echoed the sentiment of many others in the industry when he said, “No words can explain the sadness of the sudden, tragic passing of our dear friend,” he said on Instagram.

“I have known James since his early years at EMP and was always so proud of his evolution, talent, ambition, determination and accomplishments,” he added.


A post shared by Daniel Boulud (@danielboulud)

New York chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson also expressed shock at Kent’s death.

“We just had dinner a few weeks ago and talked about our lives and love for the arts and food,” he said. “We would talk for hours about my love for [Basquiat] and his love for graffiti (he was artist himself). He gave everything to New York City hospitality scene and this is terrible loss for the community.”


A post shared by Marcus Samuelsson (@marcuscooks)

Napa Valley-based chef Philip Tessier, who represented the U.S., in the Bocuse d’Or in 2015, also weighed in.

Hard to describe the sudden loss of a dear friend and one of our craft’s brightest stars. Jamal, you were always true to yourself and made the room around you smile. Your genuineness, joy for life and commitment to friends, family and profession were an example for all of us.”


A post shared by Philip Tessier (@philiptessier)

Los Angeles-based chef and restaurateur Jeremy Fox expressed admiration for Kent.

“I so enjoyed watching him seamlessly segue from Eleven Madison/Nomad to his own bi-coastal empire. When I hung out with him 60-some floors above the Manhattan skyline, he gushed about his family, as well as his teams,” he said.


A post shared by jeremy fox (@chefjeremyfox)

Celebrity chef Eric Adjepong said Kent was “One of the most hard working, flyest and humble people in our industry.”

Sean Feeney, co-founder of Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant company Growhouse, said Kent “was the very best of us. … Our City is more delicious and important because he wasn’t afraid to dream big and chase greatness for 45 years.”


A post shared by Sean Feeney (@seanbfeeney)


New York photographer Clay Williams admired Kent’s diverse interests and generosity.


A post shared by clay williams (@ultraclay)

Another New York City photographer and influencer, Ben Hon, had been neighbors with Kent years ago

“Over the years, it was amazing to see him achieve all the goals he had listed on the back of his door in his apartment. I’ll never forget our late night chats in the hallway and every time I listen to Biggie Smalls, I will always think of you.”



A post shared by Ben Hon (@stuffbeneats)


Kent is survived by his wife Kelly Kent and children Gavin and Avery.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

TAGS: Chefs
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