Skip to main content

Chef, co-owner at popular Hell's Kitchen restaurant dies at age 61


Mitch Omer – the co-owner and chef at Hell's Kitchen – loved to wear his Santa zoot suit at the restaurant during the holiday season, his wife Cynthia Gerdes wrote on the restaurant's Facebook page.

He felt he was "THE Santa Claus," and that's why his death happening around the holidays is "actually quite poetic," Gerdes explained. Omer died Friday at age 61 following a year-long illness that "still has the doctors confounded," the post continues.

Omer, a football star who walked away from a full scholarship at Iowa State, started cooking when he was 19 years old – it was his first job, and he had to lie to get it (he lacked experience), the Hell's Kitchen website says.

It was just a job until he met world-renowned chef Jacques Pepin. Omer says watching him in action "lit me on fire" and helped kickstart his culinary career, the website notes.

After working for years under chefs near and far to practice his skills, he and his "partner in crime" opened Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. Omer's thought was that food should be prepared "in a simple way using the best ingredients," he told the Pioneer Press in 2008.

Gerdes, who said over the past 13 years she and her husband developed a relationship with many customers through "our cheeky posts" and behind-the-scenes stories, invited anyone whose life Omer touched to celebrate his life at Hell's Kitchen on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Some took to Twitter to share their condolences:

Next Up

D'Angelo Russell

D'Lo's late takeover helps Timberwolves win double-OT thriller

Russell caught fire to help the Timberwolves get back to .500.

Gopher Football

Gophers suffocate Badgers, reclaim Paul Bunyan's Axe

Minnesota picked up its first home win over the Badgers since 2003.

Meeker County Sheriff's Office

Boy, 6, run over after falling off trailer in Meeker Co. tree farm accident

He was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center with internal injuries.

Target store

Target unveils deals for 2-day 'Cyber Monday' event

The promotion kicks off Sunday, November 28.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.59.30 AM

Edina police warn of recent burglary trend targeting garages and vehicles

The Edina Police Department is increasing patrols in affected neighborhoods in response to the trend.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.03.06 AM

Charges: Man shot Uber Eats driver making a delivery in Cottage Grove

Otis Donnell Shipp was charged with second-degree attempted murder after turning himself in on Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.36.14 AM

Waterfront hotel in Duluth sustains damage in kitchen fire

Authorities estimate the damage at around $75,000.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.15.18 AM

Large groups of thieves target 2 Twin Cities Best Buys on Black Friday

It bears similarities to the flash-mob style thefts seen recently in California.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Joe Biden

President Biden coming to Minnesota to promote Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Tuesday's trip follows passage of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.


Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 11.04.11 AM

Hell's Kitchen's owners are selling the business ... to their employees

The downtown restaurant is becoming 100 percent employee-owned.