Prominent Winston-Salem chef dies at 23

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Tommy Karathanas (Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Manner/The Winston-Salem Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Chef Tommy Karathanas landed his dream job at the age of 23, but died Friday at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center after an illness that still has doctors puzzled, said family members and others who knew him.

Karathanas was the son of Janis Karathanas, the executive chef at Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro, a restaurant in downtown Winston-Salem. Tommy joined his mother on the Mozelle’s staff at around age 19, and at one point they were co-chefs.

Tommy Karathanas wanted to follow a dream: To work for Thomas Keller, the famous chef and restaurant operator, whose most famous restaurant, The French Laundry in Napa Valley, regularly wins top awards.

He got his chance this year, when he was visiting California.

His persistent mother, with him on the trip, found someone who had a relative working in another of Keller’s restaurants, the Ad Hoc in Yountville, Calif.

Tommy’s sister, Tina Karathanas said a “working interview” was quickly arranged. First, the family had to scramble and buy the clothes and tools Tommy would need to do the job.

Read more: The Winston-Salem Journal.