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    Dean Corbett’s sudden death from a heart attack in October shook the culinary community. The beloved 56-year-old chef was behind Corbett’s: An American Place in the East End and Equus/Jack’s Lounge in St. Matthews. He was known for raising millions of dollars for many charities and was a mentor to dozens of chefs, who endearingly called him “Deano” and refer to him as the “godfather of the Louisville restaurant scene.”

    At the Olmsted on Feb. 20, more than 60 chefs are coming together for A Taste of Corbett’s, with a raffle, live music and tastings from each of the chefs. Here, a few of them share memories of Corbett.

     

    Ellen Gill, former chef-owner,
    Science Hill Inn in Shelbyville

    “It might make me cry. When I was sick, he took care of me and visited me in the hospital, brought me food. He had a fundraiser or a celebration — a cancer-free dinner. He said I inspired him; he inspired me. We all grew up together back in the late ’80s. Back then, the restaurant scene was Dean Corbett, Kathy Cary (of Lilly’s Bistro), Peng Looi (of August Moon), and I worked in Shelbyville, so I was fortunate enough to grow up to be part of the Louisville rat pack.”

     

    Paul Sant, executive chef,
    Bob’s Steak & Chop House at the Omni (400 S. Second St.)

    “We were moving something to a storage area on Westport Road one time, and we were driving in his car and he was listening to, like, monks chanting — monk music — and he would sing out loud to this silly music.

    “He seemed to know everyone. It didn’t matter what name was thrown out, he had that person’s contact in his phone. He was very kind, very sympathetic. I don’t think I ever saw him speak down to somebody. I don’t think I ever saw him scold anybody.

    “Deano’s passing turned me upside down. On New Year’s Day, I was at his gravesite — I still go visit him — and I talked to him. I used to speak to him multiple times a week. When it first happened, for the first month, I wouldn’t go out to the tables in our restaurant because someone would say, ‘Oh, you knew Dean Corbett,’ and I would lose my words. I’m pretty sure he’s cooking up banquets up in heaven with someone.”

     

    Josh Moore, chef-owner,
    Volare (2300 Frankfort Ave.)

    “I was 14. That would have been 1994 and, you know, getting into the restaurant scene at that early of an age, there were chefs in town I really admired and looked up to. Dean was at the top of that list. When I got my four-star review in the Courier-Journal in 2008 or 2009, Dean was one of the first people to call me and congratulate me. He didn’t view any other chefs as competition; we were all one big family. Somebody like Dean who did so much for so many charities, it’s kind of fitting that everybody jumps in and helps Dean’s family.”

    This originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Remembering Deano." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photo by John Nation

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