Michael Richards Obituary,  Death –  Chef Michael Lee Richards, who passed away on Wednesday night at the age of 66, is remembered by those who are involved in the nation’s culinary industry. Richards, a former attorney, started his lucrative cooking career in Tautahi in the 1980s when he acquired the Casa Del Sol restaurant in the city’s centre and launched White Tie catering. It was known as Michael’s Restaurant by the 1990s, and an upstairs cookery school was erected. He later started a festival, published a cookbook, and began giving lectures all over the world. In 1994, she started working for Richards as his personal assistant.

“We travelled the world. We took world cruises because he taught cookery on cruise ships. We went to Singapore because he was creating the Air New Zealand menus. We [were over there] to witness the food put into the international Air New Zealand flights.” Savour New Zealand was founded by Duncan and Richards between 1999 and 2001. According to Lauraine Jacobs, a longstanding food journalist and supporter of the New Zealand food scene, the biennial food festival, which ran until 2009, was a staple on the calendar of the culinary community. We became aware of a wider world of cuisine thanks to him, and I also believe he introduced many New Zealanders to other cultures’ cuisines. “He wasn’t really afraid of anything and he would invite amazing overseas people to come and lecture.

“A meal included in Savour New Zealand. It astounded me. One evening, he brought the entire team who were cooking our supper to the stage. So there was dinner and a play. It was incredible,” Jacobs remarked. For a long time, she and Richards were good friends. Richards’ former coworker Tina Duncan purchased his White Tie catering company from him in 1999. “I believe he was well ahead of his time as a restaurateur and culinary enthusiast. I have to admit, he was the most imaginative individual, not to mention hilarious and irritable at the same time.

He had a great heart, she added, in the way he offered up his home to others, and he really had a real talent for cooking. “[British food writer] Diana Kennedy MBE came to New Zealand…So I called Michael – he lived over in Governors Bay in the most amazing house where he did wonderful partying – and I asked,” she said. Diana called me and said, “Lauraine I’m going to be extremely bad. I’ve only been there for two days. Because I adore Michael and his girlfriend so much, I won’t be travelling to Queenstown. She remained for the remainder of the week. He took care of everyone and was just so kind and generous that he could just embrace someone from another nation who was in her late 80s.

Jacobs named his signature dish without any hesitation either. She remarked that although it was a cold dish, everyone would want to include his glazed salmon on their catering menus because it was smoked and glazed. She also noticed that Richards had a terrific sense of humour. He also had a beautiful line: “Oh, just tell them that this is a rustic dish,” which he would remark if he ever made a mistake. Michael Lee Richards was a staunch supporter of New Zealand cuisine, and his passing is a great loss to us all. Duncan yearned for the chance to speak with her friend. “I was his employee first, then we were coworkers, and finally I was his neighbour. There are two men in this marriage, my husband used to say,” she said.

“I was thinking this morning, I’ll never be able to sit down with a glass of wine and just chew the fat with Michael again.” Richards passed away in Christchurch with his sister and partner by his side after suffering from illness for ten years.