Members of Kansas City's service industry and restaurant community are mourning the death of Jennifer Maloney, long-time executive chef of Cafe Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
Maloney died Christmas Day at North Kansas City Hospital after a short, sudden illness. The cause of death is still unclear.
Nicola Heskett is the executive director at the Children’s Center for the visually impaired and a close personal friend of Maloney's. She says Maloney never declined an opportunity to cook or help out at charity events around town, and often volunteered her time and skill for CCVI events.
She says Maloney was beloved by fellow chefs in Kansas City.
"Jennifer was definitely one of the leading female chefs (in Kansas City). It was evident at the hospital, when I went up to see her on Friday, the waiting room was full of chefs," Heskett says.
Maloney was taken to the hospital Friday morning. She was 55.
Barbara Rafael owns the restaurant Le Fou Frog with her husband Mano Rafael. Maloney was a regular on Sunday evenings at their restaurant. Rafael says Maloney never met a stranger.
"Jennifer was just sunshine in a human body. She always made you feel like she was glad to see you, she had an infectious laugh ... She brought people together. When Jennifer was there, you knew you were going to have a good time," Rafael says.
Rafael says Maloney not only leaves behind a legacy as one of the best chefs in Kansas City, but also as a person who would do anything for a friend.
Memorial services are pending.
Lisa Rodriguez is the afternoon newscaster and a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.