Gray Kunz, a fixture in New York City’s fine dining scene in the ‘90s, has died. The beloved chef helmed the kitchens at Lespinasse, a glitzy restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel, where he propelled the eatery to food world fame. During his tenure in the kitchens, the New York Times awarded Lespinasse four stars.

Along with the many awards Gray captured during his career, he was also known to foster the talents of young chefs, who would later go on to open their own successful restaurants in New York City, including big names like Andrew Carmellini, Rocco DiSpirito, and Floyd Cardoz. 

Gray will be remembered as the kind of chef who harnessed his global upbringing to craft food that told a story. He was born in Singapore, grew up in Switzerland, and worked in some of the best kitchens throughout Asia and Europe, which helped anchor his passion for sourcing diverse ingredients and unique points of view. For instance, though the dishes at Lespinasse were rooted in French cooking, Gray showcased a wealth of Asian fusion dishes—a novel move at the time. 

He’ll also be remembered for designing the Kunz Spoon, a tool that’s used in almost every professional kitchen for a slew of tasks: drizzling, flipping, stirring, saucing, plating, basting, and tasting.

Following the closing of Lespinasse, Gray had a bit of success opening some other restaurants in New York, but ultimately moved to Hong Kong. 

Giants of the food world have called out his culinary genius in many Tweets and Instagram posts, including Ruth Reichl, Eric Ripert, Amanda Kludt, and Emeril Lagasse.

Header image by South China Morning Post/Getty Images

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