Howard “Howie” Kleinberg, chef and former “Top Chef” contestant, died over the weekend of a heart attack at age 46. His mother Susan confirmed the news to the Miami Herald on July 25.
Born in South Florida, the Miami-based chef and graduate of Johnson & Wales University's culinary school competed on Season 3 of "Top Chef." A colleague, Terry Zarikian, culinary advisor at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, was the person who referred Kleinberg to the Bravo competition, where he placed seventh.
It was during the Bravo reality competition that Kleinberg gained the nickname “Bulldog” for his tough and gruff personality. Kleinberg took that moniker and later lent it to his restaurant, Bulldog Barbecue, in North Miami.
“I am just finding out how many lives he touched,” Kleinberg’s mother told the Miami Herald. Kleinberg’s father also died young of a heart attack at the age of 34 when Howie was just six years old. “He was married to his passion in life, which was his cooking.”
Kleinberg often contributed his talents to “Taste of the Nation,” an event series from charity No Kid Hungry that raises funds to combat adolescent hunger. A lover of animals, Kleinberg also regularly raised money for pet shelters and his own rescue, Skye, has now been adopted by a close friend.
Kleinberg recently started working as executive chef of Peacock Garden Resto Bar + Grill in Miami's Coconut Grove, and the eatery shared its own statement on the news.
“We at Peacock Garden are saddened by the passing of chef Howie Kleinberg,” Peacock Garden said in a statement to the Miami New Times. “Howie was a valued member of our team and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family.”
Bravo, also released a statement on both its website and on the "Top Chef" Twitter account, mourning the loss of the chef. (Bravo is part of NBCUniversal, TODAY’s parent company.)
“The #TopChef family is saddened to learn about the unexpected passing of Howard Kleinberg from season three,” Bravo tweeted Tuesday. “Howie’s passion for cooking filled so many and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends.”
Funeral services were held Tuesday, July 26, in North Miami Beach, and his family asked that any donations in Kleinberg’s memory be given to the foundations Bullies-N-Beyond Rescue or to Feeding South Florida.