Kleinberg’s mother Susan confirmed his death to the Miami Herald, saying, “I am just finding out how many lives he touched. He was married to his passion in life, which was his cooking.”
More from Variety
On “Top Chef,” Kleinberg placed seventh, but was a fan favorite due to a lively back-and-forth he had with Anthony Bourdain. Watch their interaction below.
The official “Top Chef” Twitter account paid tribute to Kleinberg, writing, “The #TopChef family is saddened to learn about the unexpected passing of Howard Kleinberg from season three. Howie’s passion for cooking filled so many and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends.”
Beyond “Top Chef,” Kleinberg was a restaurateur in Miami, opening Bulldog Barbecue in 2009. He also regularly participated in the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
In an interview with the Broward Palm Beach New Times, Kleinberg was asked what advice he’d give up-and-coming chefs, and his answer passionately outlines his love for cooking.
“Once you pay your dues, the knowledge is yours,” he said. “No one can take away your determination or your work ethic. Be willing to go the extra mile. Always treat the customer well; make them feel welcome. Never lose your passion for food.”
Kleinberg is survived by his mother, Susan; stepfather, Ken Ratner; a sister, Amy, and her three children, Whitney, Lindsey, and Phillip. The family asked that any donations in his memory be made to Bullies-N-Beyond Rescue or Feeding South Florida.
Best of Variety