Friends and colleagues of a Powell resident who died last week after falling through ice on a park pond remembered him as a helpful man who had few peers in the local culinary community.
Renowned former chef and restaurateur Siegbert "Ziggy" Allespach died Feb. 11 at the age of 74, about an hour after he was pulled from a pond in Meadowview Park in the Ashmoore subdivision in Powell.
Liberty Township Fire Department officials said Allespach fell through the ice on the pond, which, despite frigid temperatures, was not frozen solid due to the pond's aeration system.
Fire officials also said they believed Allespach ventured onto the pond to retrieve his family's dog.
Once his death became known, there was no shortage of people with fond remembrances and accolades for Allespach, known to most as "Ziggy."
Allespach was born in Germany and came to Columbus in the early 1970s. What defined him, many said, were his superior culinary skills and the profound impact he had on the area's fine-dining scene.
"He was a pioneer," said Kamal Boulos, owner of the Refectory Restaurant & Bistro on Bethel Road in Columbus. "He really brought dining to a whole different level in Columbus."
Boulos said he knew Allespach for 30 years and noted that Ziggy's Continental, a fine-dining fixture owned by Allespach on Riverside Drive in Upper Arlington for many years, was the Columbus area's first restaurant to rate four stars from Mobil.
"He elevated the skills of all those around him," Boulos said. "During his time, there was probably not a finer chef in Columbus."
At Gallo's Kitchen & Bar on Nottingham Road in Upper Arlington, owner and chef Tommy Gallo has paid tribute to Allespach since opening in 2010 by prominently displaying one of the former chef's menus.
He said he did this not only because of Allespach's talents, but due to the friendship the two shared.
Choked by emotion when reached via telephone last week, Gallo said Allespach believed in him enough to lease him the space for his restaurant, and to offer invaluable encouragement through initial challenges.
"When you're struggling in the beginning, you start to question what you're doing," Gallo said. "When you have a guy like that come in and say, 'Your food is outstanding. Keep doing what you're doing,' you can concentrate on the rest and keep going.
"He saw it before I did."
Gallo said Ziggy and his wife, Ranate, did everything from pull weeds at his restaurant site, to provide advice and moral support through a bid to gain a liquor license.
"I hope he knows how much he meant to me," Gallo said. "Without him -- everything from the landlord side from him and his wife -- without him, I don't know where we'd be. It's what got me here."
Other top chefs in Columbus said Allespach's influence on the culinary profession extended beyond his own restaurant.
Several pointed out he raised the dining standard at the Athletic Club of Columbus, where he was a chef late in his career.
Allespach, along with Handke's Cuisine owner and chef Hartmut Handke and Spagio Restaurant owner and chef Hubert Seifert, also established a culinary apprenticeship major at Columbus State Community College.
That program sought to teach others the lessons the three chefs had learned in their training in Europe and throughout the world.
"He was one of the greatest chefs we've ever had in Columbus and one of the greatest family men and friends you could meet," Seifert said. "It didn't get better than Ziggy."
Enrico Wientrich, who started as a chef in Columbus for the Sheraton Hotel at Capitol Square and went on to cook in Chicago, Kansas City, Mo., and Tucson, Az., before returning to Columbus, said he knew Allespach for 25 years.
The relationship, Wientrich said, was centered on mutual appreciation of their respective talents.
"I highly regarded him for his knowledge and he was a good buddy," Wientrich said. "It's such a sad situation. ... life goes on. I feel bad for Ranate.
"He was a special guy."