Beloved Ria's Bluebird chef Ria Pell has passed away. Pell owned the popular Grant Park breakfast spot and, until its late 2012 sale and shutter following her Chopped win, Sauced, and she touched many in the Atlanta community through her work and friendships. It's with great sadness that news comes of her reported heart attack.
Below, Ria Pell is remembered by friends in the industry. Please feel free to share memories or words in honor of the chef in the comments below or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thoughts and sincere condolences to all who were close to Pell.
Jim Stacy, Pallookaville:
I was honored to have conducted Ria and Kiki's wedding. I was even more honored to have walked her down the aisle.
She was my friend and sister.
There will now, always, be a Ria sized hole squarely in my life.
We are all richer for having known her, and poorer at her loss.
Lauren Janis, Big Daddy Biscuits:
I've known Ria for 20 years, since Atkins Park. I've seen her grow since she started, and to watch her grow— it's amazing. The love is really there. I feel horrible for her wife and family and for the community. It's going to take time to recover from this. My heart goes out to her wife Kiki, her mom, brother and all her friends who were family to her.
Ria's heart was as big as she was. And her hugs— her laugh was infectious. She's legendary for the drive that she had, for her friendships, for her cooking. That's a person you always want on your side. I always told her that. She's a friend through and through; once you make that connection, she's yours. Now, she needs to rest well and she needs to know what she accomplished here. She had an idea, but she had no idea. She's an amazing person.
Kevin and Megan Ouzts, The Spotted Trotter:
There is a time in each one of our lives, in which we think about how much we have put into the life we've lived. There may be a place and a time in which we try to understand, what "it" is all for? I asked myself that tonight and I was grateful to say, at some time in my life, "it" was to meet Ria Pell. Together as a community or standing alone as a solitary individual, there is a feeling tonight of loss, a loss of incredible spirit, a loss of creative passion, a loss of compassion for the small piece in all of us that moves against the grain. She will be missed by more people than I will ever know. She was a dear friend. I will always love her, I will miss her, and I will live to celebrate her in a way that I know; only she will always appreciate.
Instead of talking about the woman I didn't know, I will reflect on the person I did. She was the pride of imperfections. I admired her, as she was the most comfortable in her insecurity as I would hope to ever be. I identified with her on the rigid details of our work and the comedy of the mundane and tribulations of the kitchen. I was always able to recognize with her in a way that was so close to pieces in my own life. She was a rock, a suitable soul to withstand any person's troubles. She always made me feel like the passion she and I had for our routine, was never matched by anyone. She was a woman who was here for a reason. I now realize, she accomplished what she was here for and now she has pushed on. I believe she has pushed on to an amazing place, that is only worthy of a woman like Ria Pell! I will be here, to remember her, to love her and to always pass on the woman she was, in only a way that Ria would love. Thank you for everything Ria.
Calavino Donati, Urban Cannibals::
It is a sad and shocking thing to hear that a friend, co worker and peer has suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.
Ria was one of my first employees at The Roman Lily Cafe in '97 and although I have many fond memories of her one of my favorite is that she was the only employee to never complain that the uniform was a pair of overalls, a white t-shirt and a red mechanics rag.
She walked through this world hand in hand with the spirit of community and this city will suffer from her loss.
Lara Creasy, Rocket Farm Restaurants:
I was devastated to learn this evening that Ria Pell died suddenly today. Ria was such an icon in Atlanta, so important, so well known and loved by so many different people: chefs, queers, small-business owners, foodies, musicians, hipsters, her customers at Ria's Bluebird. She was larger than life, unstoppable, a force to be reckoned with in so many ways, but yet so kind and so warm. It's hard to believe that she could just be gone like this so quickly. She was always around; she crossed my path and intersected with my circles for the last 20+ years. I am shocked by her passing, like so many others in Atlanta and beyond.
The way you touched your city, Ria, will not soon be forgotten. We don't want to let you go, but we all hope you rest in peace.
Lynne Tanzer, Hodgepodge Coffee:
Ria was a culinary genius as well as an all around amazing person and neighbor. She was an inspiration to so many with a giant heart and love for her community. She gave us a lot of encouragement and support when we started our business. I hope she knew how much she is loved. She sure will be missed.