On February 11, 2015, Anthony Bourdain tweeted, “Carlos Llaguno Morales. A terrific French chef. from Mexico. Rest In Peace my brother.” Our hearts go out to the head chef of Les Halles and his friends and family in New York. Llaguno was born in Puebla, Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. in 1994. It is believed that the 38-year-old’s death was cancer-related.
Llaguno was made famous in the fifth season of No Reservations, Bourdain’s food and travel show. In the opening episode, Llaguno takes Bourdain to meet his family in Puebla and eat soulful Mexican food like street-side bull meat tacos. In a tender moment between the two, Bourdain gushes about how reliable and hardworking Llaguno is. But more importantly, Llaguno became a big name in the food world when — as a cook with no formal training — was tapped to fill Bourdain’s big shoes as the executive chef at Les Halles, a famed French restaurant in New York, after Bourdain left the restaurant business to pursue a career in TV.
Llaguno represents the largely overlooked immigrant Mexican and Central American backbone of U.S. restaurants, that work tirelessly behind the kitchen doors of all cuisines. From the diligent dishwashers and bussers that pick up your plates at your favorite Korean BBQ or to manning an entire kitchen line at a high profile restaurant as Llaguno did at Les Halles, kitchen personalities like Llaguno are typically shunned by the food media in lieu of celebrity chefs and restaurant owners. Despite this glaring food media negligence in chef coverage, Bourdain remains to be the only celebrity food figure outspoken about the situation. Going as far as blasting the James Beard Foundation in an interview with Eater, asking the lauded food awards group to “take a loud, persistent stand on the people doing so much of the actual cooking in this country.” For all of this, we salute Bourdain.
May Carlos Llaguno Morales rest in peace for his dedication to cooking solely por el amor al arte (the love of the craft).