‘Chef in the hat,’ KIRO Newsradio host Thierry Rautureau dies at 64

Oct 31, 2023, 5:40 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2023, 6:30 am

seattle chef Rautureau...

From left, Chef Thierry Rautureau, Chef Rick Bayless, and guest attend the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards welcome reception hosted at Soho House Chicago on May 3, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Jeff Schear/Getty Images)

(Photo: Jeff Schear/Getty Images)

James Beard Award-winning chef and former owner of several Seattle restaurants, Thierry Rautureau, died Sunday after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disorder, according to his family. He was 64.

His radio and longtime friend, Tom Douglas told KIRO Newsradio he received a long-awaited lung transplant in early October. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save Rautureau.

Known as “the chef in the hat,” Rautureau was the executive chef and owner of Rover’s Restaurant in Seattle, where he won his James Beard Award in 1998. He also opened the French café Luc in Madison Park in 2010, named after his father, and Loulay Kitchen & Bar in 2012. Both closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to dozens of other awards and significant culinary recognitions across multiple arenas, Rautureau was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre Du Mérite Agricole by the government of France in 2004.

Rautureau was also the co-host of “Hot Stove Society” with Douglas, a fellow James Beard-winning chef Douglas, which has aired weekends on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM for nearly 20 years over two different stints. Their work on KIRO Newsradio began again most recently in 2012. The show was first called “Seattle Kitchen,” but the name changed after the pair opened a cooking school, called Hot Stove Society.

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“I was always amazed about how good a person he was and I have strived to be as good. I like to say he was half my size, but twice the man,” Douglas said in an interview with KIRO Newsradio Tuesday night.

In a statement written on his website, Douglas also spoke fondly of his work on “Hot Stove Society,” which also is available on YouTube, and how much he enjoyed working with Rautureau.

“In our last 25 years or so of doing weekly radio for KIRO, our two hours spent together became my favorite two of the week,” Douglas said. “Thierry’s classic training throughout Europe and my seat-of-the pants instincts offered a natural disconnect reconciled by wordy jousts, playful ribbing, and most of all an obvious love of our chosen line of work.”

Douglas called Rautreau’s death a “rough pill to swallow” and said the show won’t be the same.

“I will dearly miss the jousting and the fun we had every week,” Douglas said to KIRO Newsradio.

More on the life and career of Thierry Rautureau

Born in France, Rautureau apprenticed in various locations across that country from the ages of 14 to 20 to learn the art of traditional French cooking. He moved to the U.S. and lived in Chicago and Los Angeles before moving to Seattle in 1987 to become the owner and executive chef of Rover’s Restaurant in the Madison Valley neighborhood. Rautureau lived in the Pacific Northwest until his death.

“He was a fabulous chef, a true friend, a generous soul, a loving father, a curious mind, a thoughtful husband … all the things and more that many of us try to be but don’t always succeed at,” Douglas wrote on his website regarding Rautureau’s death. “Despite the fact I had to take him for his first KFC experience at age 50 Thierry was keen to try anything anytime … except McDonald’s … he drew his line in the sand at Chef Ronald.”

Rachel Belle, a former KIRO Newsradio reporter who currently hosts the renowned food podcast “Your Last Meal” while also working as an editor-at-large KCTS 9, remembers her friend and former colleague Rautureau fondly. 

“He was just a warm, warm generous person and generous in all ways, generous in spirit (and) generous with people he didn’t really know,” Belle said in an interview with KIRO Newsradio.

Belle said she didn’t think Rautureau was making a big deal about his lung condition and saw someone who just wanted to live life while he still could.

“I don’t know if it was (that) he wanted his privacy or if he was (saying) ‘I’m just going to continue living my life while I can and I don’t really need to have this get in the way of that.'”

Rautureau’s culinary talents were only outdone by his generosity toward his community, helping “raise millions for charitable organizations across the country, especially in Washington state,” according to Douglas.

Rautureau’s website states the chef also participated in various community and charity events and fundraisers. He served on the board of directors for Food Lifeline, a Western Washington non-profit that provides food to 675,000 people through food banks, hot meal programs, shelters, and more.

“All the things you hope for in your life is to meet someone like that and I met him,” Douglas said to KIRO Newsradio. “I’m very happy I told him that over the years.”

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Rautureau was featured on multiple television shows through the years, according to his website, including the Food Network’s “Dining Around” and “Ready, Set, Cook!,” Ming Tsai’s “Simply Ming,” the PBS Series “French Fest,” and the Discovery Channel series “Great Chefs from the Great Cities.” Rautureau has also been a celebrity chef judge for the PBS series “MasterChef USA.”

In what was likely his most well-known television appearance, Rautureau was a contestant on the second and fourth seasons of the Bravo reality series “Top Chef Masters” in 2010 and 2012. Rautureau competed against many known chefs, including eventual Season 2 winner, Marcus Samuelsson. He made it to the fifth round before being eliminated in his appearance in Season 4.

“When it comes to the almighty three T’s — talent, time and treasure — Thierry was never at a loss to offer all three,” Douglas wrote on his website.

Rautureau is survived by his wife, Kathleen Encell-Rautureau and their family.

Honoring Rautureau on ‘Hot Stove Society’ and beyond

Douglas said to KIRO Newsradio that once Rautureau’s family has had a chance to deal with the loss,  a memorial of some kind will be held. He added that other restaurateurs will find ways to pay tribute to Rautureau in their restaurants.

As for the immediate future of “Hot Stove Society,” Douglas encouraged listeners to stick with the show.

“I would say … keep listening. We’re going to do some tributes (to Rautureau) in the next couple of shows and we are excited to carry on his tradition,” Douglas said to KIRO Newsradio.

Contributing: Steve Coogan; Lisa Brooks, KIRO Newsradio

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‘Chef in the hat,’ KIRO Newsradio host Thierry Rautureau dies at 64