In memoriam: Curtis Caldwell, sous chef at Vesta Dipping Grill, passes away
"Curtis is a great example of the many unsung heroes that make a successful restaurant tick," says Wolkon, "and while he wasn't in the spotlight, for five years he kept the sauces fresh, the desserts creative, and he was responsible for countless other intangible details of keeping a restaurant kitchen running."
Selby expresses those same sentiments -- and more. "After I said my goodbye, I was a wreck all day, but I still had so much to say, so I sent him an e-mail even though I knew he'd never read it....I needed to talk to him," says Selby, fighting back tears. "I thanked him for being a such a good friend and I thanked him for teaching me about food, for being so creative and innovative and bringing so much to the table -- he made the rest of us shine."
Selby, now the chef of the Corner House, remembers his friend as "one of the most genuine, pure and real people I've ever met," and while Selby -- and everyone else -- tries to heal, he's still reeling from what none of us could have remotely predicted -- that a young, strong, vibrant life would be taken from us so soon. "I'll miss hanging out and messing with him, and I'll miss him tolerating my obnoxiousness and silly humor...It just doesn't seem fair that this world has to go on without someone as awesome as Curtis," he says. "Still, I'd like to think that he taught us so much about being real that we can carry on for him, because it's not everyday that you run across someone like Curtis -- someone so tolerant and vulnerable and yet so strong. Everyone misses him so much. This has ripped everyone apart."
But the outpouring of support -- "the outpouring of calls from the restaurant community validates his positive affect on people and the Denver community," stresses Wolkon, recalling an old photo of Caldwell wearing one of his favorite t-shirts that simple reads "Free Your Mind."
"He definitely leaves this world having made a difference, and his sweets will continue to put smiles on people's faces," affirms Wolkon. "The Vesta family will miss our friend and brother dearly, and we're incredibly grateful that we belong to such a genuinely supportive restaurant community."
Caldwell will be laid to rest on Friday in Warsaw, West Virginia, his hometown, and there will also be a memorial service in Denver. "We all want to celebrate the beautiful life Curtis lived," says Wolkon.
To honor Caldwell, we put together a gallery of photos -- they're on the following pages -- that will always remind us of the love he bestowed on everyone he touched.
We'll miss you, dear friend.