De Stewart, proprietor of Colonel De's Gourmet Herbs and Spices at Findlay Market, died Thursday of an apparent heart attack, according to Colonel De's Facebook page.
Stewart started his spice store on a folding table at Findlay Market in 2006. In following years, he developed a reputation as a master of flavors, importing herbs and spices from around the world to the kitchens of restaurants across Cincinnati, as well as exposing countless Cincinnatians to new flavor combinations they'd never before tried.
In addition to his store at Findlay Market, he also has an outpost at Jungle Jim's in Eastgate as well as the restaurant Colonel's Kitchen in Fort Thomas, Ky. His stores sell everything from his "OTR Butt Rub" to vanilla beans and supplies for mixology and molecular gastronomy. The restaurant Colonel's Kitchen opened in May and focuses on farm-to-table breakfast and lunch service.
Known as "The Myth, The Man, The Moustache" -- thanks to his signature white moustache and his white hat and suit -- he was beloved by the local culinary community.
"De was a friend to the industry," said Dave Taylor of Hickory Wald. "His drive and passion for what he loved was an inspiration for so many of us. His wealth of knowledge and understanding of flavor profiles pushed us all to be better, to be more creative."
"The Colonel was not just a vendor or culinarian in our eyes, but a friend and a second dad to many. His shop in Findlay [Market] was a culinary barber shop of sorts in that it was a place to catch up on what everyone else was doing in town, how they were, and what new stuff came in. His excitement about matching chefs with products could only ever be second to a chefs excitement for finding the very thing they were looking for, or didn't even know they were looking for," said Summer Genetti of Lola in Cleveland. "He was all of the very best parts of chef, an ornery ol' cuss, and true southern gentleman. My god how he will be missed."
Stewart leaves behind his wife, Susan; his son Ashley and daughter-in-law Christi; as well as grandchildren and his dog, Cinnamon. A celebration will be held at the Mess Hall in Tower Park in Fort Thomas on October 16 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The family asks that people bring a favorite picture of the Colonel to share. In lieu of flowers, they also ask donations be made to the American Cancer Society or to the Michael Patrick Deis Scholarship at the University of Toledo.