Update: Cause of chef Michael Chiarello’s deadly allergic reaction may remain a mystery

Private funeral arrangements were being made Monday for Michael Chiarello, the highly acclaimed Bay Area chef, entrepreneur, cookbook author and vintner who succumbed to an allergic reaction that sent him into anaphylactic shock.

Chiarello died Friday at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa after being hospitalized for several days. He was 61.

“The doctors don’t know what caused the allergic reaction and neither does the family,” a spokesman for Gruppo Chiarello said Monday. “They may never know.”

To honor Chiarello’s legacy, the restaurants in the Bay Area group will continue to operate. The Cal-Italian Bottega is located in Yountville in the Napa Valley. Coqueta offers his take on Spanish cuisine at two locations, The Embarcadero in San Francisco and Yountville. All are open daily for lunch and dinner.

Raised by Italian-American parents in Turlock, he learned their Calabrian recipes and decided early on a career path. He got his first restaurant apprenticeship at 14 and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at 20. He was the founding chef of the legendary Tra Vigne in the Napa Valley. Television appearances made him a celebrity chef, and his cookbooks and culinary products put him into American kitchens.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to Meals on Wheels, the charity that delivers meals to 2 million senior citizens nationwide.

Chiarello is survived by four children from two marriages.

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