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Santa Rosa chef Rob Reyes, co-owner of La Rosa Tequileria, dies in bike crash

La Rosa Tequileria chef Rob Reyes was enjoying two of the things he loved best in life — bicycling and being with friends — when he died Aug. 23 near Graton. He was 52.

Reyes was on a casual group ride with 10 co-workers from the downtown Santa Rosa restaurant to Forestville last Tuesday when he was fatally injured after colliding with a pole designed to keep cars off the hiking and bicycling trail the group was on.

Among those with him was longtime business partner and restaurant co-owner Darren Chappele, who said the day had been one of Reyes’ happiest.

“The day of the accident was one of the most special. It had been a while since we had all been together, so it felt like a bit of normalcy for all of us to be together,” Chappele said.

“We were all complaining that the ride was almost over. He was really enjoying life that day, and he was glowing in all the photos. As a friend for the past 30 years, I can say that he passed at the highest point he's ever been in life,” Chappele said, who met Reyes when they were both bartenders in San Diego.

“He always had a playful, innocent, sweet and compassionate vibe, even if he was grumpy. He was great with customers and most of his friends from the area were people he met at the restaurant.”

Originally from San Diego, Reyes learned to cook at the Culinary Art Institute in San Francisco, but was quickly hired by Chappele to join his team, eventually operating restaurants in both Aspen, Colorado, and Santa Rosa. Reyes was both chef and co-owner of La Rosa since its opening in 2011.

“He had a crazy creative passion for food, and it was the one thing you could get him talking about in a heartbeat. He loved coming up with special recipes for special events, but he was also such a sincere person that was really interested in what you had to say,” Chappele said.

A popular chef in the local culinary scene, Reyes’ effusive grin and laid-back attitude endeared him to both front-of-the-house and kitchen staff.

“I will miss picking his brain about food recipes, new food ideas and so much more. Weekly, Rob would walk across the street and walk into (our) kitchen like he owned the place, grab his arugula or whatever he needed, then crack a joke and walk back to his restaurant,” said Chef Gray Rollin of Belly Left Coast Kitchen, located across the street from La Rosa.

“Rob loved his La Rosa family. He told me often how he finally felt like his was in the right place in his life,” he said. “I can’t wait to give him a hug and cook beside him on the other side. Rob’s memories will forever be in our hearts.”

Reyes is survived by his mother and three brothers. A public memorial will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Sept. 6 at La Rosa, 500 Fourth St. in Santa Rosa.

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