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Epilogue: Even after ALS diagnosis, Lynne Aronson kept cooking

Former NYC chef brought people and ingredients together
Published Jan. 23, 2019

In the last year of her life, the chef sat at her black-granite island calling out orders.

Get the cutting board.

Bring me two bowls.

Grab the knife sharpener.

Lynne Aronson's mother, family and friends served as her sous-chefs. They held up, mostly, under her detailed demands. As amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - or ALS - slowed, then stopped, the signals from her brain to her body, as her muscles weakened and she moved to a wheelchair, Aronson had to give up a lot.

But she never gave up her spot in the kitchen.

Aronson, 62, died at her home on Dec. 10, surrounded by family, friends and her dogs, Pickle and Noodle.

Esquire had once named her a young chef to watch, and she was featured on The Discovery Channel. The chef, however, never intended to be a chef.

Aronson started her career as a graphic artist but later enrolled in culinary school. Her restaurant career included time as a sous-chef at The Frog in Philadelphia, executive chef at John Clancy's in New York City and executive chef and co-owner of NYC's Lola.

After Lola closed, Aronson found another kitchen in Marblehead, Mass., at Shubie's Marketplace. She worked there for 10 years, as it moved from 2,500 square feet to 10,000. She filled the prepared food case each day with complex dishes and transformed a corner into a food bar.

"Every recipe she made for me as her boss/friend, she would bring me a taste of it, always," said Carol Shub, Shubie's co-owner. "It always touched me that she did that."

Aronson's recipes still fill the food case, and the food bar is now a spot where people stop to sit, talk and eat.

In 2015, Aronson moved to Florida to be closer to her mother. She loved the emerging food scene here and hoped to open a restaurant. But she had ongoing health problems and was diagnosed with ALS in 2017.

One day last year, a package showed up at her door.

"What's this?" asked Aronson's best friend, Lynn Notarainni.

"It's a convection hot plate," Aronson said. "I'm gonna be able to cook on it."

And she did, from that kitchen island, with layered flavors and elaborate recipes she never wrote down, her sous-chefs chopping, gathering and hustling to keep up.

In her last kitchen, Aronson cooked for her caretakers, then plated the food that only she could make in the way only she knew how.

"It was art," Notarainni said, "on a plate."

Senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Want to know more about Lynne Aronson? Head over to Instagram and @werememberthem and see one way her friend will remember her. Know someone who has recently died whom we should write about? Send suggestions to epilogue@tampabay.com.

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