Thierry Rautureau, often known as “The Chef in the Hat,” of Seattle, Washington, died early Sunday morning from pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 64. The adored Rautureau, who abandoned the traditional chef’s toque in favor of his omnipresent hat, leaves a legacy of French culinary expertise and philanthropy, as well as legions of fans.
He was a fabulous chef, a true friend, a generous soul, a loving father, a curious mind, a thoughtful husband, and all the things and more that many of us try to be, but don’t always succeed at,” Tom Douglas, a fellow Seattle restaurant luminary and co-host of the popular “Seattle Kitchen” radio show with Rautureau for decades, said in a statement.
Douglas went on, saying, “When you define generosity, it would be difficult to leave out the conversation without mentioning Thierry.” Chef and public figure Rautureau was recognized by Douglas for “help[ing] raise millions for charitable organizations across the country, especially in Washington state,” where he was also a member of the board of directors for the non-profit organization Food Lifeline. If you need talent, time, or money, Thierry was never short on any of the three, as described by Douglas.
Kathleen “Kathy” Encell-Rautureau, his wife, is crushed by his passing, as are the rest of his family and innumerable friends and admirers in the food service industry. Rautureau’s many achievements include the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest, which he received in 1998. At the time, he was running his first restaurant, Rover’s, an upmarket prix fixe in a quiet area of Madison Valley. Chef Xavier describes his cuisine as “Northwest contemporary with a French accent,” thanks to his use of time-honored cooking methods to create the region’s finest products. When Rautureau bought Rover’s in 1987, it immediately established itself as Seattle’s top fine dining business.
Modernist Cuisine author Nathan Myhrvold and Julia Child both visited Rover’s restaurant, with Myhrvold occasionally assisting out in the kitchen. Rover’s was open for 25 years before closing in 2013. According to Rautureau, those 26 years were “a great adventure,” and he wasn’t done yet. He opened the enormously successful Luc, a local bistro, in 2010; in 2013, he ventured downtown with the establishment of the posh Loulay. He shut them both down in 2021, when the coronavirus outbreak was at its peak and his own health was failing.