By Robin Leach (contact)

Published Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 | 9:38 a.m.
Updated 1 hour, 22 minutes ago
Las Vegas and the culinary world lost one of its favorite star chefs early this morning when “Iron Chef” star Kerry Simon passed away at Nathan Adelson Hospice.

The rock and roll chef who had restaurants at Palms Place, Harrah’s and downtown at Carson Kitchen had fought a brutal, 2-year debilitating fight against the hideous brain disease Multiple System Atrophy.

We will always remember Kerry fondly. He was a gentle man who will be missed greatly. He was still young and handsome at 60 years of age. He didn’t smoke or drink alcohol, preferring his favorite juices regimen.

Per his request much earlier, Elizabeth Blau, his business partner and friend of 18 years, brought two Tibetan monks to the hospice early this morning to say bedside prayers as he slipped away.

It was back in December 2013 that I wrote the first story of Kerry’s diagnosis with MSA. I’ve known Kerry more than 30 years, starting with back in New York when Donald Trump’s then-wife, Ivana, recruited him to run the Edwardian Room at the Plaza Hotel he’d purchased.

Kerry went on to open restaurants all over the world for star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and I ran into Kerry on opening night of the Vong in Hong Kong.

I filmed TV segments with Kerry over the years and will never forget the incredible breakfast he prepared for my cameras at Motley Crue rocker Vince Neil’s home here. Kerry was even flown to London by members of Led Zeppelin to cater their concert run in the British capital.

He often catered rock star tours, and the musicians were regulars at his Simon restaurants here at the Hard Rock Hotel and later Palms Place.

His place in the starry filament of celebrity chefs was sealed when he won “Iron Chef” at the Food Network that I helped launch in the 1990s. The “secret ingredient” was hamburger meat, and ever since his win Kerry was known for his favorite and brilliant burgers.

Just 48 hours ago, Elizabeth and I hosted a dinner at her restaurant Made L.V. in Tivoli Village where chefs who had worked in Kerry’s kitchens reunited for a tribute dinner preparing all of his favorite menu items.

Kerry had approved the menu before he slipped into a coma from pneumonia contracted two weekends ago after attending a concert in his motorized wheelchair.
Kerry, who had around-the-clock nursing care, had been working on a food memoir with Las Vegas-based food writer Al Mancini. That book will be published next year, with proceeds, at Kerry’s insistence, going to the medical fight against MSA. He also had been planning a new Simon Bar & Grill in Henderson and one in a resort in the Dominican Republic.

Kerry will be greatly missed, and all of our Las Vegas Sun and Vegas DeLuxe family send condolences to his rock-of-strength girlfriend Erin, who has been at his bedside nonstop the last few months; his three brothers; business partners; and close friends.

As I wrote earlier this morning, Kerry now has the largest turnout of dining reservations to take care of in heaven. It’s all tragically sad, but at least Kerry no longer has to do battle against the pain, discomfort and horrors of this awful brain disease.

I send personal thanks to his medical team led by Dr. Ryan Walsh and Dr. Jeff Cummings at our Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Our Keep Memory Alive fundraiser more than a year ago attended by Bill Murray and with the generous support of Larry Ruvo, CEO at Southern Wines and Spirits, launched Kerry’s MSA facility at the clinic.

Dr. Walsh said this morning: “It was an honor to battle alongside Kerry Simon in his fight against MSA. While he leaves a well-known legacy as an ‘Iron Chef,’ a rock and roll chef and one of Las Vegas’ culinary founders, we at the Cleveland Clinic will remember him as a hero whose courage in the final fight of his life, against MSA, has inspired research and innovation that will live on.

“Our deepest condolences are with his family, and we will continue the fight against MSA in his name through our work at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.”

Dr. Walsh is a Lee Pascal Parkinson’s Disease Scholar and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Program at the Lou Ruvo Center.

Elizabeth said this morning: “You’re never prepared for something like this. We’re devastated that we lost such an amazing and kind man but know he is in a better place. Our focus now is to continue this fight against MSA in Kerry’s honor.”

Former Palms President George Maloof, who brought Kerry to Palms Place, added: “Kerry Simon was a masterful chef, he was full of enthusiasm for the world, he was a fighter, but more than that Kerry was a wonderful human being — and he was my friend.

“Today my heart is heavy, but there is comfort in knowing that his personal battle is over, that he is at peace and that his spirit will live on through his restaurants and the work being done to fight MSA in his name at the Cleveland Clinic. May we all move forward in his honor carrying just a little piece of his energy, his passion and his love of life.”

Palms executives added: “All of us at the Palms are deeply saddened by the passing of Kerry Simon, who was a beloved part of the Palms family for many years. His passion, his creativity and his spirit made an indelible mark on our property and the entire Las Vegas culinary scene that will not soon be matched. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family.”

Kerry’s life may be over, but he will be remembered forever, and his legacy will be that he was at the forefront in trying to find treatment and an eventual cure for Multiple System Atrophy.

The brain disease has been described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” There is no known treatment or cure, but doctors here in Las Vegas hope that their research will be rewarded with a cure in Kerry’s name.

I’ll post funeral arrangements as I learn them, but I can add that Kerry’s final wish would be that you, too, join the Fight MSA group that he founded here in his culinary home of Las Vegas.

Rest in peace, Kerry. You will not be forgotten.

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