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The distinctive chef of a former Stillwater restaurant and pirate bar has died at the age of 45.

Shawn Smalley, who ran Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar for a decade before its closure in 2018, died on Sept. 9.

He had gone into cardiac arrest following a seizure, and then slipped into a coma, with his family then making the decision to cease life support after he showed no brain function.

He is survived by his wife, Tirah, with a Go Fund Me campaign launched to help support her after the loss of her husband.

"Our beloved Dread Pirate Smalley has passed on to a new realm, leaving many broken hearts," the fundraiser says. "None crushed harder than his devoted, loyal wife Tirah."

While it was open, Smalley's Barbeque and Pirate Bar enjoyed an outsized influence thanks to widespread acclaim by critics, attracting national attention.

It was opened in 2008 by Smalley, James Beard-award winning chef Tim McKee, and his longtime business partner Josh Thoma. Prior to this, Smalley had worked as a cook at McKee's and Thoma's celebrated Minneapolis restaurant La Belle Vie.

Smalley's Barbeque featured on the Food Network four times, including on an episode Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where host Guy Fieri braved a basket of fiery "666 Wings" containing an ingredient Chef Smalley calls "death juice."

The Food Network also called Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque the "best bbq ever" on the network's new show, Best. Ever.

When the restaurant at 423 Main St. S. closed in 2018, Smalley said it was due to a conflict about the lease, and commented: "This is not how I wanted it to end."

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