The family of renowned chef Robert “Bob” H. Kinkead Jr. announced his death Sunday at age 67 following complications from a long-term battle with diabetes and heart disease.
A self-taught chef, Kinkead emerged as an influential leader in the American culinary movement vanguard of the 1980s. He opened Kinkead’s to immediate critical acclaim in 1993, the same year it was named one of Esquire’s 25 Best New Restaurants in America. “Kinkead’s may be the best restaurant in the nation’s capital, yet it still has a small-town feel,” remarked restaurant critic Pete Wells in 2000, “Chef Bob Kinkead listens to the local community.”
While his cooking accolades are numerous and illustrious, Kinkead will be best remembered for encouraging and mentoring a generation of notable chefs who worked in his kitchens, including Ris Lacoste, Tracy O’Grady, Brandon L’Etoile, Will Artley, Jeff Black, Jeff Heineman, Damian Salvatore, David Collier, Chris Kujala and many others.
“When Bob and I arrived from Nantucket in 1987 with 11 other adventurous restaurant pros to open Twenty-one Federal, it was the start of a new era of dining in the District,” says Lacoste, chef/owner of RIS. “Bob brought delicious cuisine to the D.C. dining scene and devoted the next 30 years of his life to making the city a top dining destination in America and teaching the next generation of chefs. He made a huge impact, not just in the D.C. area, but in the national culinary industry as well. I love him. He is and will always be my chef and my friend.”
Kinkead made an impression across D.C.’s dining scene, and other chefs took to social media to share their experiences and condolences.
“(Bob) was a kind and generous chef and one of the original Old Guard who helped shape the D.C. dining scene,” chef Robert Wiedmaier posted on Twitter. A contemporary of Kinkead’s, Wiedmaier operates Marcel’s in the same Foggy Bottom neighborhood where Kinkead’s was once located.
The winner of a James Beard Award for Best Mid-Atlantic Chef in 1995, Kinkead began his culinary career in a modest way as a teenager working summers in Cape Cod restaurants. While pursuing a psychology degree at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, he continued his career in the restaurant industry at some of New England’s top restaurants and hotels. He was vaulted into national acclaim with his restaurant Twenty-One Federal, which he opened in Nantucket before debuting a second outpost in Washington. His other restaurants included Colvin Run Tavern (Vienna, Virginia), Hell Point Seafood (Annapolis), Sibling Rivalry (Boston), Ancora and Campono. He published “Kinkead’s Cookbook” in 2005.
Kinkead served on the board of directors at Sullivan College’s National Center for Hospitality Studies and as president of the Council of Independent Restaurant Owners. He was a proud member of the American Institute of Wine and Food, the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. In 2016, he received the Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.
Kinkead is survived by his wife, Dianne Stevenson Kinkead; his eight siblings Fran Kinkead, Leslie Yacavone, Liz Kinkead, Tom Kinkead, Matthew Kinkead, Marty Kinkead, Megan Kinkead and Andrew Kinkead; stepchildren Amy Frye, Jeffrey Gill and Kelly Gill; and grandchildren Isidoro Alberini, Elisa Alberini, Tosca Alberini, Collin Frye, Riley Frye and Perry Gill.
Details for a memorial service will be announced in the near future. In lieu of flowers, the family asks memorial donations to the donor’s favorite culinary group or charity of choice.