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Aug 22, 2012 8:42 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Keith Greene, Local Chef And Hell's Kitchen Finalist, Dies At 35

Aug 22, 2012 10:25 AM

Chef Keith Greene did it all, and did it big. Widely known for his flavorful dishes, his unrelenting work ethic and his stint on the Fox reality television show “Hell’s Kitchen,” Mr. Greene—or “K-Grease,” as he was known—was more than just a big personality. To many in the Southampton community, he was family.

Mr. Greene, 35, died last Wednesday morning, August 15, while swimming at Wyandanch Lane Beach. While Southampton Village Police have not publicly offered a cause of death, it is believed he had gone out for a swim before driving to work that morning. Mr. Greene, who lived in Hampton Bays, was the executive chef at Schmidt’s Market in Southampton Village and Schmidt’s Seafood Market in North Sea.

When the news of his death broke, members of the community pulled together immediately to shelter and support his family. A memorial fund was set up to help his wife, Kristin Greene, and their young children, Avery and Aiden, and Schmidt’s Market donated all of its earnings from Friday’s Lobster Night to the fund—approximately $7,500.

“He was like family and a friend first, and an employee second,” Schmidt’s Market owner Dennis Schmidt said on Friday.

Mr. Schmidt said that he thought it was a little strange that Mr. Greene had been out swimming that morning, since the weather had been stormy, but he said that Mr. Greene liked the water and was an avid swimmer. Additionally, Mr. Schmidt said that Mr. Greene had a bad back, and he thought maybe the buoyancy of the water helped relieve some of the pain.

According to his wife, Kristin, Mr. Greene had taken his bodyboard and flippers with him that morning, but she does not know what could have happened.

When he didn’t show up for work or call in as he usually did, Mr. Schmidt said he knew something was wrong.

According to Village Police, a local man and his daughter came across Mr. Greene’s body just after 11 a.m. that day and called the lifeguards at nearby Bath and Tennis Club for help. Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance and the Southampton Fire Department also responded.

Village Police Detective Sergeant Herman Lamison said police found his vehicle at Old Town Beach, and that it had appeared that Mr. Greene had simply gone out to take a swim. Mr. Greene was pronounced dead at 11:53 a.m. at Southampton Hospital, police said.

Scores of friends, family and acquaintances turned out to the O’Connell Funeral Home in Southampton Village to pay their respects to a man who was larger than life. Both nights of his wake, Saturday and Sunday, lines formed out the doors for hours, according to friends and family members. On Monday, hundreds turned out to say a final goodbye at the Basilica Church of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary on Hill Street. In Mr. Greene’s fashion, his pallbearers wore K-Grease baseball hats, merchandise he sold through his website, KGrease.com, cocked to the side or backward. Recognizing his unmistakable style as the pallbearers walked down the church’s center aisle, a few smiles waxed and waned at the sight, amid the tears.

He made his debut on “Hell’s Kitchen” in 2006, after remarking in an interview, “I’ll cook my shoe, and Gordon Ramsay will eat it and love it.” “K-Grease” finished third in the competition, and his outsized personality and unique fashion sense became a hit and a trademark of sorts.

But Mr. Greene wasn’t always K-Grease, who wowed celebrity chefs with his cooking talent. He started small and locally.

Born in Southampton on March 30, 1977, he grew up on the second floor of his family’s restaurant, BK’s Southampton Restaurant and Saloon. It was there where he learned the restaurant business and discovered that he loved the fast pace of the kitchen and inventing new dishes.

When he wasn’t busy at work, he spent a lot of his time with his cousins, who lived nearby.

“There is not a childhood memory where Keith is not in it,” his cousin Vanessa Nielsen said this week. She said he would often perform belly flops at the pool. “Keith was always the one who did it the best.”

Mr. Greene, who was good friends with his younger brother Kevin, loved to play hockey behind BK’s and ride bikes into town.

Ms. Nielsen said Mr. Greene graduated from Southampton High School in 1995.

After his family sold BK’s, he moved through the restaurant industry in Southampton and worked at several local businesses, including Barrister’s Restaurant and the now defunct Canyon Road. His time at Barrister’s gave him the opportunity to hone his skills and become the chef he envisioned himself to be one day.

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RIP Keith. You will be greatly missed.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Aug 15, 12 3:56 PM
Rest in Peace Keith. So Sad, my thoughts and prayers are with all the people who knew and loved him.
By tigger231 (2), Sag harbor on Aug 15, 12 4:03 PM
I never saw him without a smile on his face, what a horrible tragedy to happen to such a great guy, and family. RIP Keith.
By The Royal 'We' (199), Southampton on Aug 15, 12 4:06 PM
2 members liked this comment
God Bless your family Keith. You will be missed.
By sandy5816 (6), Wesley Chapel on Aug 15, 12 4:08 PM
What happened? The water looks pretty calm.

By C Law (354), Water Mill on Aug 15, 12 4:13 PM
Tragic news. RIP Keith Green.
By Jane Cerami (1), Southampton on Aug 15, 12 4:19 PM
I can't believe this. I just saw him out to breakfast on his daughter's bday last week. I knew Keith as a crazy fun party kid years ago. I was so proud of him for accomplishing so much and becoming a family man. This is horrible!
By Spencer (3), Hampton Bays on Aug 15, 12 5:11 PM
So sad to lose such a kind and taleted man!
By JIMMYMACK (1), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 15, 12 5:51 PM
A great loss of a kind, sincere, fun loving family man that could cook as well as anyone. Always smiling and laughing, he could brighten up a room with humor. This is a sad day for all that knew him. K-Grease, RIP brother.
By warren (3), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 15, 12 5:56 PM
I had art class with him at SH High. He was a wild guy in his teens, some would say pretty out there, but he was always in a great mood, nice, fun loving and none of his actions had any hint of affectation. His spirit of kindness was always genuine and he was a real talent. I remember him wearing bowling shoes in class as well, just an example of his individuality. We all got a kick out of his antics, listening to Beastie Boys while drawing, and driving Ms. Altomare (art teacher) nuts! But you couldn't ...more
By watermill_mike (35), Sag Harbor on Aug 15, 12 6:16 PM
2 members liked this comment
Keith was an amazing man!! Who leaves behind a wife, 2 small children and a community who loved him so much!! RIP pal i will miss not speaking to you everyday!!
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Aug 15, 12 6:43 PM
2 members liked this comment
so sorry for a young wife with 2 young children to have to deal with this tragic event. Heartfelt simpathy goes out to them and his extended family at Schmmidts
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Aug 15, 12 7:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is a terrible and painful loss to our Village. Keith was an amazing chef and a great supporter of the Southampton Historical Museum. He loved to feed people and was incredibly generous with his talents. He will be sorely missed as well for his kind, warm and gentle spirit. Condolences to his family, Schmidt's Market and everyone who knew and loved him.
Tom Edmonds, Southampton Historical Museum
By Tom Edmonds (10), Southampton on Aug 15, 12 9:04 PM
Keith we will miss you so much. Have known you since you were a little boy.
Deepest sympathy to your family.
By masinmary (11), southampton on Aug 15, 12 9:42 PM
RIP Keith! Schmidts won't be the same without you....peace & blessings to his family during this difficult time.
By concerned hamponite (7), hamptons on Aug 15, 12 10:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
keith rip u will be greatly missed a guy that could cook his ass off and a great friend will alwas remember the great times we had growing up .
( and the ranger jersey in high school ) love u deepest sympathy to the family !!!!
By pete d (1), southampton on Aug 16, 12 6:30 AM
2 members liked this comment
very sorry to hear of this , rip !
By LovinLife (61), East Quogue on Aug 16, 12 2:09 PM
thoughts and prayers go out to the Greene family and extended family. I had the pleasure of going to HS with Keith and his brother and cousins who I consider good friends. Even though keith was a few years older, we still hung out in similar circles. All the memories I have of Keith are happy, charrismatic, and enjoying what life had to offer. This year has been a really hard year in regards to tragics losses that has hit our community. I Pray that the creator watches over his family and children ...more
By Shinnecock79 (2), Phoenix on Aug 16, 12 3:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
Myocardial infarction. The words are just stuck in my head.

RIP buddy. See you on the next plane...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 16, 12 5:01 PM
Keith was larger than life, he was full of heartfelt love for his family. He was so excited to get married and so blessed to have a beautiful wife and two lovely children. Margie knew he hung the Moon. I remember eagerly awaiting his arrival in the spring and how sad his MA was to see him go. My heart is so heavy, I know that he is at peace. I can still hear him hollering MA with Margie coming to him full speed. I know he's safe, I am so thankful I was privileged enough to know him and how much ...more
By Jewels frm Roosters (1), Mukilteo on Aug 16, 12 5:18 PM
2 members liked this comment
Keith: Rest in Peace.I came to the market 2-3 times a week with my little son and It was always a pleasure to see you at the market with your face so bright and happy just like the rest of the gang at Schmidt's. Sorry you left us so quick. My condolence to the families, his friends and those that worked with him. May G-D bless your soul.

Robin Eshaghpour and Family,
By Summer Resident (251), Southampton N.Y. on Aug 16, 12 11:56 PM
My heart goes out to this man's family and my prayers too...a great loss for all. This man was a pillar of the community. Just the sort of man Southampton was built upon. We join his family in their grief and offer whatever support they need. We will miss his caliber of character in the years ahead.
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Aug 17, 12 6:46 AM
3 members liked this comment
Everyone that knew you Keith will miss you. Rest in peace buddy!
By fish head (9), Southampton on Aug 19, 12 5:25 AM
Our whole family loved Keith. He catered, no made, two of our important family celebrations. He always took care of these as though our family was his family. We we felt he was part of our family. We will so mourn him and miss him. And we send his family our deepest sympathy and love. Arthur, Grethe, Sophie, Warren and Ansel Elgort
By Grethe Elgort (3), Southampton on Sep 4, 12 9:26 AM