MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Chef Gary Williams, owner of DejaVu restaurant, has died. Friends shared their condolences on the chef’s Facebook page Thursday.
Another of Williams' restaurants confirmed his death with a shared post.
The New Orleans native and fifth-generation Creole cook moved to the Bluff City in 2014 just before Hurricane Katrina.
He opened DejaVu in the heart of South Memphis on Florida Street in 2008 before expanding in 2013 to 51 S. Main St.
Williams' friends remembered him as a generous, gentle giant.
“Just a huge heart, big personality, great at cooking, just a great chef, of course,” said Chef Phillip Ashley.
Condolences poured in on social media, many from the culinary world, including restaurants like Rendezvous and Muddy’s Bake Shop.
Williams suffered two strokes within two years and was hospitalized for diabetes. Those health issues and some financial trouble forced him to close his Main Street restaurant in December 2017 after a four-year run.
Williams relaunched the Florida Street location in April 2018 with his son, Chef Rondell Williams, under a new name, “Krewe of DejaVu.”
“He brought me, my brother and my sister up to always give, no matter how much we have or how little we have,” said Rondell Williams.
Before coming to Memphis, Williams lived in Las Vegas from 1998 to 2004 where he owned Old New Orleans Cookery.
In August, Williams took over the food operation for Memphis Sounds.
Williams died Wednesday following a heart attack. He was 56 years old. He is survived by his wife of more than 20 years, Toni Williams, along with three children and seven grandchildren.
His family is planning a New Orleans-style second-line parade in the coming days.