The Heartbreaking Death Of Maria Guarnaschelli

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Foodies everywhere are mourning the heartbreaking death of Maria Guarnaschelli, 79, who was not only the beloved mother of celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli but also a star of the culinary world in her own right. Maria Guarnaschelli was an acclaimed book editor for four decades, most recently with W.W. Norton & Company, the publisher for whom she worked for 17 years until her retirement in 2017. Guarnaschelli was "the editor behind the most highly acclaimed and successful cookbooks of our time," according to a statement made by W.W. Norton, for whom she acquired and edited more than 100 books. 

Among the books that Maria Guarnaschelli edited over the course of her career are the 1997 revision of Irma Rombauer's perennially iconic The Joy of Cooking (via History) and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, published in 2015 (via Amazon). In addition to Lopez-Alt, others whom Guarnaschelli is credited with having introduced to the culinary world include Judy Rodgers, Rick Bayless, Maricel Presilla, Jim Lahey, Stella Parks, Dave Arnold, and Michael Ruhlman, and Brian Polcyn, among many others. Lopez-Alt, Bayless, and Lahey are among those scheduled to pay tribute to Guarnaschelli on Dave Arnold's radio talk show, Cooking Issues on February 9 (via Twitter).

"The cause of death was complications of heart disease, according to her daughter, chef and Food Network television personality Alex Guarnaschelli," according to Norton's statement.

Maria Guarnaschelli is credited with having taught Alex how to cook

Maria Guarnaschelli, who was born Maria DiBenedetto in Brookline, Massachusetts on April 18, 1941, and who died on February 6, 2021, of complications from heart disease, earned a graduate degree in Russian Literature from Yale University, where she met her husband, the late Dr. John Stephen Guarnaschelli. Among the heartbroken whom Maria Guarnaschelli leaves behind are her daughter, Alex Guarnaschelli, the executive chef of New York City's Butter restaurant and frequent guest on Food Network shows such as Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay (via W.W. Norton & Company). In an Instagram post from February 8, Alex revealed that her mother was the only person who called her by the nickname, "Al." "I will miss her soufflés, her endless curiosity and the smell of her perfume in the room," she wrote. Alex recently became engaged to Michael Castellon, who is also a celebrity chef as well as a judge on Chopped.

During her tenure with Norton, Maria Guarnaschelli was known by her colleagues as "brilliant; exuberant; indomitable; a stunning reader; laser-like in spotting quality or falsity; Shakespearean in her comic sense; irreverent; charming; and—repeatedly—beloved," according to a memo to Norton staff from Chairman and President Julia Reidhead. The cookbook authors with whom she worked found her "demanding and exacting, but also passionately engaged with their work," according to W.W. Norton's statement.