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Mitch Omer of Hell's Kitchen passed away over the weekend

The larger than life Omer struggled throughout his life with mental illness and substance abuse, but he was buoyed by his life and business partner, Cynthia Gerdes.

The larger than life Omer struggled throughout his life with mental illness and substance abuse, but he was buoyed by his life and business partner, Cynthia Gerdes.

You probably needn't look further than the restaurant itself to know there was something exceptionally unusual about its founder. A color scheme in black and red, delightfully profane Ralph Steadman paintings all but wallpapering the space, and a list of rules for patrons that includes "no stingy tipping" and "no complaining."

Among many other things, the owner/chef/visionary/founder of Hell's Kitchen, Mitch Omer, was fiercely protective of his staff and any customer who didn't like it could, you know, get the hell out. 

Most often described as "larger than life," Omer stood 6-foot-4 and had a personality to match. He struggled throughout his life with mental illness and substance abuse, and had many fans as well as detractors, but he was buoyed by his life and business partner, Cynthia Gerdes.

Omer died suddenly on Friday after battling with an undisclosed illness for the past year. Gerdes and the Hell's Kitchen family will be celebrating Omer's life at the restaurant on Wednesday, Dec. 23, at 1 p.m. All are invited. 

A statement from Gerdes: 

"We obviously don’t know most of you personally, but for some reason, over the past 13 years, Mitch and I developed a relationship with many of you just through our cheeky posts, our honest behind-the-scenes stories, our hair-raising stories in the cookbook, or just stopping by your table to say thanks and hello. So it pains me beyond comprehension to tell you that Mitch passed away this morning after a year-long illness that still has the doctors confounded. Our extended Hell’s Kitchen family is still stunned as I write this, but his death during the Christmas holidays is actually quite poetic. Anyone who knew Mitch clearly understood that in his heart of hearts, he really felt he was THE Santa Claus, and his highlight each year was donning his outrageous Santa zoot suit and visiting tables with bug-eyed kids. The man that was bigger than life will always be big in our hearts; I may have just lost my beloved husband, but he really belonged to all of us." 

Hell's Kitchen 

80 S. Ninth St., Minneapolis 

612-332-4700

hellskitcheninc.com