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Mitch Omer: the Soul, Chef and Visionary Behind Hell's Kitchen Has Died

Omer succumbed to an undisclosed illness this Friday, according to family.

Mitch Omer
Mitch Omer
Hell's Kitchen Facebook page

Cyn Gerdes took to Facebook to share the difficult news with her Hell's Kitchen extended family. Her beloved husband, chef, author and crazy heart of the restaurant had passed away.

A note to our Facebook fans:We obviously don’t know most of you personally, but for some reason, over the past 13...

Posted by Hell's Kitchen-Minneapolis on Friday, December 18, 2015

Omer embraced those on the fringe. Hell's Kitchen hired the heavily tattooed, colorful-haired and body modified for both front and back of the house jobs long before it was the norm. The restaurant would loudly, proudly declare allegiance with those who lived just outside of "normal." During the fight for marriage equality, Hell's Kitchen came out in front, offering to give away a wedding to one lucky couple. (At the eleventh hour, one couple wasn't enough and five other couples were awarded Hell's Kitchen prizes for their weddings.)

He spoke candidly about his personal struggles with addition and mental illness and did not suffer fools kindly. At 6'4" he struck an imposing figure, but it's perhaps his enormous laugh that made the most lasting impression.

When Hell's Kitchen first opened, it was far from the typical downtown spot, with the Sunday servers in pajamas, Mahnomin porridge and sausage bread on the menu and Ralph Steadman art everywhere.The restaurant moved, but the vibe flourished in its current, windowless location. It remains one of the most-beloved restaurants in the Twin Cities.

Mitch Omer had been battling an undisclosed illness for the past year and passed away "unexpectedly, but peacefully," in his sleep at home on Friday. He was 61 years old. (A full obituary can be found here in the Star Tribune.)

A celebration of his life for staff, friends, family and loyal customers will be held on Wednesday at 1 p.m. inside the restaurant at 80 South 9th Street in downtown Minneapolis.

The crew will carry on, but without Omer, a little of the welcome weird has left this earth. As Hunter S. Thompson once said of another singular soul, "There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."

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