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More tragic news about Thang Le, the chef at popular H Street restaurant Toki Underground who died last week at age 31: the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Tuesday evening released the official cause of death as “hanging” and the manner of death as “suicide.” According to the medical examiner’s office, no further report or details will be released to the public at this time.
Following funeral services on Friday, friends of the late toque gathered for a public memorial at BlackByrd on 14th Street NW. A disc jockey played hip-hop, described as Le’s favorite, while acquaintances exchanged hugs and glumly watched a slideshow of photographs on the big screen depicting Le’s travels and his time working in various kitchens. Proceeds from donated drinks were collected for the family.
Prior to joining Toki, the young cook had worked under Johnny Monis at Komi, Jamie Leeds at Hank’s Oyster Bar and David Chang at Momofuku in New York. He also spent time cooking overseas, including stints at Monastrell in Spain and Iggy’s in Singapore.
“He was super excited about food, just so into it,” says friend and fellow chef Aaron Silverman, a D.C. native who worked with Le at Momofuku. “Whether he was working at Iggy’s, one of the best restaurants in the world, or just grilling out at friends houses on Long Island in the summer, he was so passionate about it. He wanted to serve real food for real people, and he was an extremely fun loving guy.”
“He was an amazing talent and very passionate about our craft,” says Will Morris, chef de cuisine at Brasserie Beck. “Always fun to talk to, and a very kind soul. He touched many peoples lives, and always brought on the good times….A lot of us are going to have to just get back in the kitchen to get our minds off of this.”
With reporting by Sam Hiersteiner
Photo by Chris Shott