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Chef James Kent, Renowned New York Restaurateur, Dies at 45

James Kent, a distinguished chef and visionary restaurateur renowned for his contributions to New York City’s culinary scene, died unexpectedly on Saturday at the age of 45. The news was announced by Saga Hospitality Group, the holding company of his acclaimed restaurants Crown Shy, Saga, and the cocktail bar Overstory. The cause of his death has not been disclosed.

James Kent was on the brink of expanding his restaurant empire with the backing of notable investors, including NBA star LeBron James. His sudden passing has left a profound void in the culinary world, particularly in the Financial District of Manhattan where his establishments are located.

Born and raised in Lower Manhattan, Kent’s culinary journey began early. At just 14 years old, he knocked on the door of his building’s newest resident, celebrity chef David Bouley, asking to work in his kitchen. This opportunity set the stage for Kent’s illustrious career, leading him to work at some of New York City’s most prestigious restaurants, including Babbo, Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park, and NoMad.

Kent’s talent and dedication to his craft earned him numerous accolades. He won the Bocuse d’Or USA in 2010 and later placed 10th at the prestigious international competition in Lyon, France. His flagship restaurant, Crown Shy, which he opened in 2019 with partner Jeff Katz, quickly garnered critical acclaim. The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells praised the restaurant, highlighting dishes like the creamy white bean hummus with ’nduja and the beef tartare with toasted walnuts and rye croutons. Crown Shy was awarded one Michelin star, cementing its status as a must-visit dining destination in downtown Manhattan.

In 2021, Kent expanded his culinary footprint by opening Overstory, a sky-high bar ranked among the top 50 bars in the world, and Saga, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant. Both establishments are located in the Art Deco landmark at 70 Pine Street, where they offer breathtaking views of the city.

Kent’s influence extended beyond his culinary creations. He was a passionate advocate for mental health and work-life balance in the hospitality industry. His own experiences with panic attacks while working at Eleven Madison Park led him to prioritize well-being for himself and his staff, eventually forming the Crown Shy Running Club to promote physical and mental health.

The news of Kent’s death has prompted an outpouring of tributes from fellow chefs and industry colleagues. Gavin Kaysen, an award-winning chef, expressed his grief on Instagram, recalling the many memories and lessons shared with Kent. Other notable chefs, including Daniel Boulud, Dan Kluger, and Kwame Onwuachi, also paid their respects, highlighting Kent’s positive attitude and unwavering support for those around him.

Kent’s legacy is marked by his relentless pursuit of excellence and his contributions to New York City’s culinary landscape. He was in the midst of preparing for a significant expansion, including a new restaurant at 360 Park Avenue South with Bravo’s Top Chef star Danny Garcia and several new ventures in partnership with Paris luxury department store Printemps on Wall Street.

James Kent is survived by his wife, Kelly, and their two children, Gavin and Avery. As his family, friends, and colleagues mourn his loss, they remember a chef whose passion, creativity, and kindness left an indelible mark on all who knew him.

Saga Hospitality Group announced that Crown Shy, Saga, and Overstory would be closed on June 16 in honor of Kent, urging followers to spend Father’s Day with their loved ones. The culinary world will miss James Kent’s innovative spirit and the warmth he brought to his kitchens and beyond.

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