tampabay.com

Local chef was iconic, loved by many

By JORGE SANCHEZ
Published March 20, 2007


HOMOSASSA - Charlie Brown was one of those chefs who moved from place to place frequently and made a career both with his recipes and his personality.

When word got out that Mr. Brown was working in a restaurant's kitchen, it wouldn't be long before his devoted fans would be seated at the tables.

His specialty was skewered shrimp wrapped in bacon. In one form or another, the dish showed up on numerous restaurant menus.

Mr. Brown, 48, was killed Saturday March 17, 2007 when the van he was driving struck a tree in the predawn hours on County Road 495 (N Citrus Avenue) near Dunnellon.

By Monday, word of Mr. Brown's death circulated among the west Citrus restaurants where he worked and trained hundreds of chefs and waiters. His comrades were saddened by the loss.

"He's quite an icon in this community," said Gail Oakes, manager of Homosassa Riverside Resort.

Mr. Brown operated Charlie Brown's Crab House Restaurant at the resort from 1999 until 2003.

Mr. Brown began cooking at Citrus County's seafood restaurants in 1981, he told the Times in a 1997 interview.

He arrived here when his parents moved from Gary, Ind., to Ozello. They purchased the Pirates' Cove Restaurant, and Brown's mother gave him his first cooking lessons.

Mr. Brown's stints in Citrus include Andre's, K. C. Crump, Misty River Seafood, Charlie Brown's Crab House, and most recently at Some Place Nice in Homosassa.

He left there a month ago and was driving a taxi to earn a living.

"People loved Charlie," said Rick Dunbar, co-owner of Some Place Nice. "He had a great personality and wherever he went, people just fell in love with his food and his personality."

Dunbar said he first met Mr. Brown about 10 years ago.

Another longtime friend, chef Ken White of Misty River Seafood, said he was shocked by Mr. Brown's tragic death.

"Charlie was one of a kind. Everybody knew him and he taught a lot of chefs and wait staff in his years at Citrus," White said. "We lost a very good guy."

In the 1997 Times interview, Mr. Brown spoke of his passion for cooking.

"You have to love what you're doing or you won't make it," he said. "There are lots of hours. I work no less than 10 hours six days a week ... It's 80 to 90 hours a week. It's every holiday and every weekend."

The long hours, he said, were sweetened by a special reward.

"I get paid every day," he said. "The way I get paid is after I feed 200 to 300 people after a long day, they will shake my hand or compliment me on their meal."

Mr. Brown is survived by a son, Justin. Funeral arrangement are incomplete.

Jorge Sanchez can be reached at (352) 860-7313 or sanchez@sptimes.com.