Top Chef Alum Howie Kleinberg Is Dead At 46

Howie Kleinberg on Top Chef in screenshot
(Image credit: Bravo)

Howie Kleinberg made his way to reality television back in 2007 as a contestant in Season 3 of Top Chef, and he left a lasting impression. Sadly, the chef has passed away. He was 46 years old at the time of his death. 

Kleinberg passed away over the weekend, according to his mother in a statement to the Miami Herald. He is survived by his stepfather, sister, two nieces, and one nephew in addition to his mother. His father died after a heart attack at the age of 34, when Kleinberg was 6 years old. 

Susan Kleinberg confirmed her son's death to the Miami outlet on July 25, and shared that the number of condolences that she has received revealed to her just how much of an impact he left on those around him. She said: 

I am just finding out how many lives he touched. He was married to his passion in life, which was his cooking.

Howie Kleinberg participated in the third season of Bravo's hit cooking reality series, called Top Chef: Miami in 2007. He came in seventh out of the original group of 15 chefs vying for the top prize. Although he didn't win, he was an unforgettable part of the third season, particularly due to an exchange with the late Anthony Bourdain, in which he countered some of Bourdain's criticism of him by citing Bourdain's own book.

He was an unknown chef when he was recommended by the South Beach food festival director for Top Chef, and was ultimately cast. After his time on the Bravo show, he owned the Bulldog Barbecue restaurant in North Miami, named for his own nickname as a chef. He initially found his inspiration to become a chef after being hired in the kitchen at Miami's Hotel Intercontinental and wasn't a fan of the job at first, but grew to love cooking, and it took him far.

Bravo went out of the way to honor Howie Kleinberg in the wake of his passing, as the network's official Top Chef Twitter account posted this message

The [Top Chef] family is saddened to learn about the unexpected passing of Howard Kleinberg from season three. Howie’s passion for cooking filled so many and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and friends.

Howie Kleinberg's season of Top Chef was still early in the run of the show, which has gone on to launch multiple spinoffs and introduce plenty of memorable chefs. The most recent was Season 19 earlier in 2022, following the history-making eighteenth season that made some changes for quarantine. Without the success of those early seasons, the show likely wouldn't still be going strong. 

Despite all the many seasons and many chefs who have appeared, his exchange with Anthony Bourdain (who died in 2018) was ranked by the show's verified YouTube page as one of the top five times that chefs spoke out against the judges. Take a look: 

Our thoughts here at CinemaBlend are with the family, friends, and loved ones of Howie Kleinberg in this difficult time. His work as a chef as well as his role in Top Chef Season 3 guarantee that he leaves a legacy. If you want to revisit his time on the Bravo series, you can find it streaming on Peacock now.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).