Omar Cantu, celebrated chef of Chicago’s Moto, found dead

Homaro Cantu, whose creative blending of science and fine dining garnered international attention for his West Loop restaurant Moto, was found dead Tuesday afternoon on the Northwest Side, according to authorities and a business partner.

The 38-year-old chef appeared to die of hanging, and his death was being investigated as a suicide, police sources said.

Cantu was found about 1 p.m. in a building in the 4400 block of West Montrose Avenue where he had planned to open a brewery, according to investigators. The Cook County medical examiner's office said an autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.

“I'm saddened, I'm broken up,” said Trevor Rose-Hamblin, Cantu's brewer and former Moto general manager. “This guy was my best friend. He was going to be my business partner.”

Cantu wowed diners with his edible menus, carbonated fruit and a fish preparation that cooked before your eyes in a tabletop polymer box, but his ambitions went beyond culinary pleasures. Citing as inspiration his family’s homelessness while growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Cantu presented food and science as a way to solve the world’s problems, particularly hunger.

His now-shuttered restaurant iNG and recently opened coffee shop Berrista emphasized the miracle berry, a fruit that makes sour foods taste sweet and could, in his mind, eliminate the need for sugar while making previously unpalatable ingredients palatable. He started an aeroponic farm in Moto’s basement and attempted lab work that might lead to the creation of synthetic meat and a vegan egg.

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