Michael Altenberg, executive chef and owner of Bistro Campagne and the recently shuttered Crust Pizza, passed away unexpectedly Friday night. Altenberg's wife, Julie, arrived home around 10 p.m. Friday to find him breathing abnormally and unresponsive. She called 911 and said paramedics worked on him for a long time, but eventually were unable to revive him. At this time, the cause of death is unknown and the family is asking for privacy in the matter.
Altenberg, who was 48, is survived by his wife and three sons ages 20, 16 and 11, who were from a previous marriage. As for the restaurant's future, Julie Altenberg said she hopes it will continue to operate as normally and with the same passion as it was run by her husband.
Altenberg, who was trained in both French and Italian cuisine, made a name for himself for being an early adopter of not only local and sustainable fare, but also for helping pave a path for the use of organic ingredients. In 1996, Altenberg and partner Steven Schwartz opened Campagnola in Evanston before opening sister restaurant Bistro Campagne in 2002.
Prior to setting off on his own, Altenberg honed his craft under renowned chefs and restaurateurs like Jean Banchet at Le Francais, Ezio Santin of the three-Michelin-starred Antica Osteria del Ponte near Milan, Italy, and Gordon Sinclair of Gordon's in Chicago. In the '90s, he helmed the kitchens of Tucci Milan, Montparnasse and Cassis, all of which received critical acclaim. Our condolences go out to Altenberg's family and friends.
· Crust Pizza Closes; Cites Financial Difficulty, High Rent [~EChi~]