In Memoriam 2019: 8 notables the Atlanta restaurant world lost this year

The metro Atlanta restaurant world said goodbye to several restaurant industry and food professionals who left their mark on the local food and beverage scene. 

Bonnie Bambinelli.
Photo: Bambinelli's Facebook page

Bonnie Bambinelli

Bambinelli opened Northlake eatery Bambinelli’s in 1980, three years after she and her family moved to the area from New York, where they owned a restaurant.

In its nearly 40 years in business, the restaurant built a reputation for its homestyle Italian classics, as well as a loyal customer base charmed by Bambinelli’s warmth and hospitality. 

Read more about Bambinelli here.

Mike Blydenstein when he worked at Emeril’s in Atlanta.
Photo: (Becky Stein/SPECIAL)

Mike Blydenstein

Much of Blydenstein’s work was focused in metro Atlanta where he’d been sous or executive chef at restaurants including Emeril’s, Barcelona Wine Bar, the Mercury at Ponce City Market and still-active the Pinewood in Decatur.

He rose in an era when the media, and particularly television, created an explosive culinary culture presided over by rock star chefs. But like the late chef and writer Anthony Bourdain, Blydenstein disdained the pretensions and commercialism of celebrity. He was also, like Bourdain, a late bloomer and uncomfortable with the designation “chef,” preferring just “Mike.”

Read more about Blydenstein here.

010917 ATLANTA - Frances Leigh Smith Catherall at her Atlanta home on Monday, Jan. 9, 2019. MANDATORY CREDIT: BITA HONARVAR / BITA HONARVAR PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Bita Honarvar/Bita Honarvar

Frances Leigh Catherall

Catherall was perhaps most known as owner and CEO of Here to Serve Restaurant group, which closed en masse in 2015 and failed to pay its employees, resulting in a lawsuit. 

Restaurant troubles aside, food remained Catherall’s passion. For six years, she served as a board member for Atlanta-based non-profit Open Hand Atlanta, which helps people prevent or manage chronic disease through nutrition.

Read more about Catherall here.

Yves Durand and his wife Inge brought fine dining and style to Atlanta’s early dining scene. Durand was also one of the best sommeliers in the U.S. and introduced many Atlantans to great wine on his tours of Europe with select groups.

Yves Durand

When Durand and his wife Inge moved to Atlanta in the mid-1960s, the city was a wasteland for gourmets and oenophiles alike. The couple opened one of Atlanta’s early French restaurants, Rue de Paris.

He warmed up to his adopted hometown in 1985, when he beat 14 competitors for Best Sommelier in French wines in the United States.

Read more about Durand here.

Betty Hsu holds her Malaysian Yellow Curry Chicken at the Chinese New Year party at Sweet Auburn BBQ in February.
Photo: Howard Hsu

Betty Hsu

The longtime restaurateur instilled a strong work ethic in her three adult children — Howard, Anita and Ron — who followed in their mother’s footsteps with careers in the restaurant industry. The siblings are partners at fine-dining establishment Lazy Betty, with Ron as the executive chef there. It’s the latest dining concept for Howard and Anita, who operate Sweet Auburn Barbecue, but they have been in the biz since graduating from the University of Georgia and opening Gezzo’s West Coast Burritos in Henry Country.

Despite a childhood in Julau, a poor village in Malaysia, Betty and her brother were the first in their family to attend college, thanks in large part to a mother who valued education. She studied in Taiwan, and at Lincoln University, an ocean away in Oakland, California.

Read more about Hsu here.

Oscar Mateo worked at Noodle for nearly a decade.
Photo: Noodle Decatur / via GoFundMe/eyJpdiI6ImpNd1pTV3pQNXd2VlExZStGWUloRGc9PSIsInZhbHVlIjoiUlgwZjFPM0V1VUZxUk1YWXhscXRtS3lwXC9lejlNYWh0RVFLWGZvZVBwSHdpbzQzUWlCRmNqdjIzamFZQlI0K2IiLCJtYWMiOiI1MDJjMTEwODBkMTFkNWE2NDkwMmNlZWM0MWZlMzhlNzU5NTkxZGFjNDIyYzIyZGExN2UyY2QzNWM4ZTE1NmVmIn0=

 Oscar Mateo

Mateo, a cook, worked at Noodle Decatur for nine years, longer than the current owners have had the restaurant.

“He always had a smile on his face,” Parker Hilley, the general manager at Noodle, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He was genuinely a nice guy who got along with everybody, and everybody loved him.”

Read more about Mateo here.

Bobby Agee (left) and Bill McCloskey serve customers at Manuel’s Tavern in 2005. McCloskey, a fixture at Manuel s for nearly 50 years, died Sunday, July 14, 2019. ELISSA EUBANKS / AJC file photo
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bill McCloskey

McCloskey was hired at Manuel’s Tavern in 1972 by the tavern’s patriarch, Manuel Maloof. He spent the majority of his tenure evenings behind the bar. The last few years, his health declining from kidney cancer and chronic respiratory problems, he took a morning shift to prepare the restaurant for opening. McCloskey retired this past April.

Read more about McCloskey here.

University of Georgia professor Marianne Shockley
Photo: Contributed/Justin Butner

Marianne Shockley

Shockley, 43, worked in the Department of Entomology and was an ardent supporter of entomophagy, the human consumption of insects. She had become an international leader in that industry and an academic mentor for students in the field.

Read more about Shockley here.

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