RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Triangle is mourning the loss of a culinary giant. Walter Royal, the executive chef at Angus Barn for over a quarter century, died Monday at the age of 67.
Royal's family spoke with ABC11, describing him as warm and generous with his time and knowledge -- a man who was always available if you needed him.
"He was always there for any family member," said his first cousin, Wanda Royal Brooks. "All you had to do was just call, you know, all you had to do was call. And when I got news yesterday, it was just like, 'Is this real?'"
Royal was born in Alabama and started his culinary journey in the Triangle at the Fearrington House in Pittsboro in the early 1980s. He then moved on to Durham, helping to start the award-winning Magnolia Grill before becoming Angus Barn's first-ever executive chef in 1997. His career took him across the country, including a victory in a 2006 episode of Iron Chef America.
The owner of Angus Barn, Van Eure, said he was the model employee and so much more.
"He was just like a rock. I mean, I could always count on Walter. If I needed something done, I knew if I called Walter, there was no doubt it was going to get done. It was going to get done perfectly," said Eure.
Eure added that Royal's dedication to helping and mentoring those around him in the kitchen was legendary.
"He mentored them and just really taught them life lessons more than just cooking, like life lessons for the entire time that he was here," she said.
Brooks said her cousin always had a culinary passion. She recalled him cooking in a restaurant up the street from where they grew up in Alabama. She said his love for the craft turned him into a star.
"He followed his passion," Brooks said. "I just say that because not everybody does and he did. And with that, he poured the love into it. And I think that's why he was so successful in what what he did."
Now, the Angus Barn is struggling to imagine a future without him. But Eure said his legacy is reflected in his former colleagues in the kitchen.
"The sign of a great leader is how you train people to follow in your footsteps, which Walter has done," she said. "But he is going to be so very missed."