John Percy Riebel
Riebel, John Percy 55, died December 6 at his home in Minneapolis from pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. "Chef Jack" was executive chef of The Lexington in St. Paul, spearheading the historic supper club's reopening and steering it through the turbulence of COVID. He was also chef at Butcher and the Boar in Minneapolis, for which he was a James Beard finalist; the Dakota Jazz Club; La Belle Vie in Stillwater; and sous chef at Goodfellow's Restaurant. He was a passionate craftsman who scorned so-called "clipboard chefs," preferring to be behind the line with his crew. "We never had kids," said his wife Kathryne Cramer, "but he had hundreds of kids at his restaurants. He made everybody feel special. That was his gift." Born and raised in St. Paul, Riebel began short order cooking at age 16 and attended culinary school at the St. Paul Technical Vocational Institute. Although one wedding cake and a few hours short of graduation, he remained devoted to his alma mater, bequeathing them his 500-volume cookbook collection. Three days before he died, St. Paul College awarded him an honorary doctorate. "You don't get to be a legend by being boring and keeping your mouth shut," said chef Joe Rolle, who credits his career to Riebel's mentorship. "Behind the kitchen door, Jack was like a big, macho cartoon. "Whenever someone was having a hard service, he would ask, 'How's your last day going?'" Pastry chef Diane Moua remembered working at La Belle Vie during her pregnancy: "Jack always looked out for me and made sure I had something good to eat." His mother remembered him in the open kitchen of Butcher and the Boar, looking out at the bustling dining room and saying, "Look, Ma, everybody is so happy!" Riebel refused to slow down during his two-and-a-half-year illness. Sporting a "Stronger Than Cancer" hoodie, he completed renovation on a new home kitchen, stained his deck, secured the succession at the Lexington, and took trips to Hawaii, Key West, and New York City. His last trip was to see New Orleans musician Glen David Andrews perform at the Turk's Inn in Brooklyn. When Andrews learned Riebel was in the audience, he exclaimed to the band, "This is the best chef in the world! You have to taste his oyster po' boy." He is survived by his wife Kathryne Cramer of Minneapolis, mother Joan Riebel (Strom), father Leland Riebel, brother Andrew, sister-in- law Karen Hanson Riebel, niece Roxanne, nephew Calvin, sister Elaine Encinas, large extended family, many friends, and ivory lab Auguste Bones. A celebration of life will be held at 2:30 PM on December 19 at St. Joan of Arc Church in the gymnasium. Proof of vaccination and mask required. The ceremony will be live- streamed (YouTube.com/…) for those unable to join in person. In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes donations to the Jack Riebel Memorial Culinary Scholarship fund at St. Paul College: saintpaul.edu/alumni/…
Published on December 12, 2021
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