The local chef community lost one of its own at far too young an age this week. Chris L'Hommedieu, a chef's chef and often-cited mentor, died at the age of 44 of a rare cancer of the appendix — incidentally the same rare cancer that took the life of Zuni chef-owner Judy Rodgers last December.

L'Hommedieu's name was not well known outside the local food world, having been a respected but decidedly behind-the-scenes second-in-command at several high-profile restaurants. The bulk of his career was spent working for chef and restaurateur Michael Mina, first at Aqua, and later as executive chef of Restaurant Michael Mina back in its Union Square days. He also did a stint working for Thomas Keller as the opening executive sous chef at Per Se in New York.

As the Chron notes, "He was lovingly described by friends as the Kevin Bacon of the Bay Area food world because he seemingly was connected to everyone in the chef community, and also because he mentored countless younger chefs."

In this interview with Grub Street, prior to the opening of Rich Table, co-chef Sarah Rich cited L'Hommedieu as one of her most important mentors. "He’s an incredible chef," she said. "I don’t even know how to describe him. He’s a great person, a great teacher, and a fantastic mentor. You had to work very hard for him, but he made you want to want to work."

For the last two years, L'Hommedieu had worked at Prospect, for Nancy Oakes and Pamela Mazzola, and after hiring him in 2012 Oakes told the Chronicle, "I'm excited to have someone of his caliber," saying she looked forward to learning from him.

The most tragic part of L'Hommedieu's untimely passing may be that he could have one day opened his own solo project and gotten more credit and attention for his work after years of remaining a chef's chef. "Odds are that L'Hommedieu will have his own place eventually," the Chron noted in 2012 when he accepted the Prospect job, "but he's in no rush."

L'Hommedieu leaves behind a wife, Kendra Stanley. A fundraising event in his memory is scheduled for September 21, details to follow.