Randall Copeland, a popular chef with restaurants in Dallas and Rockwall died unexpectedly this week. He was 39.
Copeland co-owned both Restaurant AVA in downtown Rockwall and Boulevardier in Dallas. The work of the up-and-coming food artist nicknamed "Big Cat" won him critical acclaim.
"We are going to miss him," said friend and fellow restaurateur Kevin Lefere. "We are going to miss Restaurant AVA a lot."
Lefere, who was supposed to meet his friend on Friday afternoon, remembered Copeland outside his old Rockwall restaurant, where flowers have been left.
"He was personable as he was a great chef, which is rare to see from someone as talented as him in the kitchen," he said.
Copeland, an East Dallas native, died in his sleep on Tuesday.
"It was such a shock for everyone that knew him or Restaurant AVA," Lefere said. "We're just trying to figure out what happened, where it went wrong."
Copeland and his partner opened Restaurant AVA four years ago, and it quickly became a hit. With his unexpected death, the restaurant is officially closed for business.
"It's been really sad, because Randall was such a good person and he really enjoyed life and he was an asset to our downtown -- his restaurant, his personality," said Bethany Golden, Rockwall Main Street manager.
"It just wouldn't be the same going in without him," Lefere said.
Both of Copeland's restaurants were on best restaurant lists in D Magazine.
Friends say that though Copeland is gone, his zest for life will never be forgotten
"Randall was a good example of having a great attitude and outlook on life and, hopefully, people will remember him that way and this spot in that way," Golden said.
Copeland's funeral will be held Monday at St. Pius X Church at 3030 Gus Thomasson Road in Dallas.