A Philadelphia chef who competed last year on the Fox reality cooking series Hell's Kitchen was found dead in his home.
Paulie Giganti, 36, the former chef at restaurant Birra at 1700 E. Passyunk Ave. in South Philadelphia, died Thursday from drug intoxication.
“It is an accidental death by drug intoxication,” said James Garrow, spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The office does not release the type of drug involved or whether it was a prescription drug, he said.
The Brooklyn-born chef competed in Season 16 of the popular FOX series.
Birra owner Gordon Dinerman said he and Giganti had a mutual parting of the ways in November.
"I'll miss him," Dinerman said. Giganti had worked at the popular restaurant for about five years. Dinerman described the chef as talented but sometimes troubled.
"He brought a consistency to our product which is why we are still around," Dinerman said. "We did a little bit better than a lot of people because of him."
Giganti was "definitely a personality, which is how he got on TV," said Dinerman.
When the show aired, people would come by the restaurant to see the episodes.
"He loved it," said Dinerman.
On the show, Giganti occasionally battled with British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay over the quality of his food.
Giganti's signature dish listed on his Fox biography was the "biscotti-encrusted scallops over a crispy polenta with a basil curry cream sauce."
“I never went to school for cooking. I was going to be an engineer. I just wanted to see how I stacked up against other guys, like 'school-y' guys and other people," Giganti said in an interview last year with My Take on TV.
Giganti said his experience on the show gave him "a little bit more confidence."
"I was getting critiqued by world-renowned chefs" he said. "They liked my food and gave me more affirmation that I actually do know what I’m doing — but it hasn’t changed my perception on the kitchen, except for those life-affirming moments."
"First he was there and now he is not," said Dinerman. "It is still sinking in."
Dinerman said Giganti loved to quote lines from A Bronx Tale, his favorite movie.
" 'The saddest thing in life is wasted talent,' " Dinerman recalled Giganti saying. "He was definitely a character."