He was the charming chef, a rising Canadian culinary star whose love of food was rivalled only by his love of people.
Despite his rapid rise to fame, Anthony Sedlak still took the time to sign notes to fans telling them to bask in life, to e-mail recipes to those who asked for them and to chat with students milling around his own kitchen as if they were family.
Mr. Sedlak died suddenly at the age of 29 of an undiagnosed medical condition, his family said in a statement released Monday. His body was found in his North Vancouver apartment at about 7 p.m. Friday; the exact time of death has not yet been determined.
Mr. Sedlak was born in Prince George, B.C., and raised in North Vancouver. He was best known as the host of Food Network Canada’s The Main and a judge on Family Cook Off.
At 13, Mr. Sedlak got a job busing tables at Grouse Mountain Resorts, and by 19, had completed a culinary arts program and four-year apprenticeship at Vancouver Community College. He then spent two years at La Trompette, a Michelin-star restaurant in London, England.
Stuart McLaughlin, the president of Grouse Mountain Resorts, said Mr. Sedlak was named employee of the month at 14, winning a dinner at the resort’s fine-dining restaurant – a meal that inspired a love of food.
“He said to me, ‘I have never eaten in a place like that in my life, where the service was what it was, the food was what it was,’ and it just blew him away,” Mr. McLaughlin said Monday. “That’s when he had made the decision to learn more about this.”
After college, the young phenom quickly carved out a name for himself, winning silver at the World Junior Chef Challenge in Auckland and winning Food Network’s Superstar Chef Challenge. He hosted The Main for four seasons and a cookbook of the same name became a national bestseller.
Chef Trish Magwood worked with Mr. Sedlak on Family Cook Off last year and described him as someone who was really energetic on set.
“He was a kid in the way he acted and that youthfulness was really appealing,” she said. “He made food fun and was just infectious … especially the way young girls seemed to love him and that’s what really made him a phenomenon.”
Ms. Magwood recalled joking with Mr. Sedlak that he often used to take longer than she did to get ready for the shoot. “Some of his tattoos … they used to airbrush them out, maybe because it was a family show,” she said.
After co-opening the American Cheesesteak Co. restaurant in downtown Vancouver, he travelled back and forth to Toronto to help reinvent the Toronto Don Valley Hotel & Suites’ restaurants and room service menus. The hotel was set to relaunch next week.
General manager Kevin Porter said the hospitality sector was a perfect fit for the young chef, whose passion for people and for cooking, were apparent.
“He’s got a beautiful personality,” Mr. Porter said.
“Certainly, if you got within distance of him, you could feel that warmth and hospitality about him. I couldn’t think of a better business for him, with that type of warmth.”
At a June 21 kickoff for the hotel, Mr. Sedlak and Mr. Porter held a large community barbecue for about 500 people. As the day wound down on the sweltering summer day, the two jumped into the hotel’s pool, fully clothed.
“That’s a very fond memory, because that’s just the type of guy he was. We worked hard, but we loved to have a lot of fun.”
In an interview shortly before his death, Mr. Sedlak spoke of eating as an intimate experience.
“The idea of sitting around a table and sharing, and breaking bread, and experiencing, and talking, and laughing – that is a social experience. People say food is so social … but when you put something in your mouth, that’s personal, you know what I mean?”
Friends, fans and former colleagues paid tribute to Mr. Sedlak on his Facebook page Monday.
“Truly shocked and saddened by this news,” wrote Donna Battista. “He was a bright light who signed every note with a personal motto that we can only draw inspiration from: ‘BASK in Life. You are here. You are awesome.’”
“My son (at the age of 9) and I were fortunate to meet Anthony in Toronto,” wrote Beth Krouse-Boyer. “He was so kind and patient with my son, taking extra time to talk to him. When my son told him he wanted to be just like Anthony and become a chef when he grew up, Anthony told him, ‘Mike, you can do anything you put your mind to.’”
With reports from the Canadian Press and freelancer Madeleine White. For more reaction on social media to Anthony Sedlak's death, click here