Howard Kleinberg, ‘Top Chef’ contestant, Miami restaurateur dead at 46

Howard Kleinberg, a Miami restauranteur who was a contestant during the third season of “Top Chef” in 2007, died Friday, his mother said. He was 46.

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Kleinberg’s mother, Susan Kleinberg, confirmed his death to the Miami Herald. The cause of death was a heart attack, she said.

“I am just finding out how many lives he touched,” Susan Kleinberg told the newspaper. “He was married to his passion in life, which was his cooking.”

On “Top Chef,” Kleinberg placed seventh, but was a fan favorite because of his lively exchanges with the late Anthony Bourdain, Variety reported.

In one episode, Bourdain tried to lecture Kleinberg about the importance of delivering a dish on time at all costs, the Herald reported.

Kleinberg weathered the criticism and quoted Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” back to him about making sure a dish was right at all costs.

“Oh, that’s unfair, man,” Bourdain said.

Kleinberg was a young, unknown chef when Terry Zarikian, culinary director of the South Beach food festival, recommended him for “Top Chef,” the Herald reported. He was cast as the “heavy” who would take no guff, his mother told the newspaper.

He earned the nickname, “Bulldog,” which was the name of the restaurant he opened after the show. He ran the restaurant for nine years, according to the Herald.

The Top Chef Twitter account shared condolences, writing that “The #TopChef family is saddened to learn about the unexpected passing of Howard Kleinberg from Season Three. Howie’s passion for cooking filled so many and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends.”

In an interview with the Broward Palm Beach New Times, Kleinberg was asked what advice he would give to young chefs.

“Once you pay your dues, the knowledge is yours,” Kleinberg said. “No one can take away your determination or your work ethic. Be willing to go the extra mile. Always treat the customer well; make them feel welcome. Never lose your passion for food.”