The celebrity-studded life of chef-restaurateur Kerry Simon came to an end Friday when the 60-year-old succumbed to a rare neurological disease—as he was planning a fifth restaurant.
Known as the rock ‘n’ roll chef because of A-list rockers’ love of his food, Simon had won the admiration of industry peers for his kitchen wizardry and a knack for hatching successful restaurants in highly competitive Las Vegas. His outlets there helped to establish the resort, once known for its $2 buffets, as a serious restaurant market.
Among his best known places there was Simon Kitchen & Bar, which he opened in partnership with Elizabeth Blau and Peter Simon in Simon’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Among the other restaurants in which he had a hand were Blue Star, Mercury and Max’s.
Simon also had places in Atlantic City and Los Angeles.
He was well known to the national dining public because of his top finish in the 2005 “Iron Chef America” competition. But fellow chefs had noticed him long before, while he was cooking in such New York City landmarks as Lutece and La Cote Basque. The Culinary Institute of America graduate left the city several decades ago to pursue top-billing jobs in Vegas.
There, he won a following among rock and roll stars ranging from Alice Cooper to Vince Neil, the leader of Motley Crue and members of Cheap Trick. Simon looked the part of a rock star himself, with un-chef-like long hair and a proclivity to dress in black.
Two years ago he was diagnosed with multiple syndrome atrophy, a degenerative neurological disease sometimes likened to Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Simon continued to open and run restaurants, even as he was confined to a wheel chair and lost his ability to speak. A fifth restaurant was in the works at the time of his death.
Winsight Media, the parent company of Restaurant Business Daily, spotlighted Simon’s struggles during a fund-raising session for the Quest to Cure MSA at the company’s FARE event in Nashville in June.