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Motorcyclist killed in Calistoga crash a Healdsburg chef

The motorcyclist who died in a crash Friday in Calistoga was a beloved and successful executive chef at the Simi Winery in Healdsburg, where he had worked for 10 years.

Kolin Vazzoler, 51, was the executive chef at Simi Winery in Healdsburg and lived in Cloverdale with his wife, Kate, a dancer and instructor; and their son, Ennio, 3.

Vazzoler died after he lost control of his motorcycle on a curve on Highway 128 near Tahja Road after he had passed a Calistoga Fire Department engine. He had run off the road and was ejected from his bike. The fire crew attended to Vazzoler, but he died at the scene.

A colleague who was meeting Vazzoler for lunch raised the alarm and after he discovered what had happened, a network of Kate’s Sonoma County family members and friends from the chef and arts community surrounded the mother and son. They set up a “meal train” and have been bringing them food.

A GoFundMe account at bit.ly/36yQk8p was quickly set up by fellow dancer Erin Meyers, an acupuncturist who had the couple as clients. They started with a goal of $5,000 and the fund was up to more than $73,500 as of Wednesday afternoon.

“You see line after line of people saying they loved him and are heartbroken” on the GoFundMe account, said Meyers, who is from Healdsburg where the Vazzolers used to live. “Obviously they had made for themselves a loving community that flocked to take any burden off them that they could.”

“He was a super-creative chef — Italian, Asian. They loved that boy so much,” said Meyers, who views the GoFundMe as a long-term commitment.

Born Dec. 23, 1969, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Vazzoler grew up with an Italian grandfather who made wine in the cellar and whose family grew vegetables in the garden.

He learned his passion for cooking from his mother and an Italian aunt. Vazzoler attended Vancouver Community College, where he received a culinary diploma and red seal certification after a three-year apprenticeship.

He started his career at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver and worked at two other Vancouver restaurants before catching the attention of Gary Danko. He then spent eight years at Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco, working his way up to executive sous chef.

In 2012 he was hired as executive chef at Simi, where he prepared light food paired with wines and dinners for wine sales and distributor groups.

“He was a quiet, understated man who had many layers,” said Tom Gore, director of vineyards for Simi Winery. “To truly understand him, you had to have his food.”

Gore said he and Vazzoler were friends and “I was lucky enough that he made the food for my wedding. He put his heart into it, and everybody came away with a wonderful feeling about where my wife and I were going, partly because of him and his food.”

Gore and his wife attended Vazzoler’s wedding later that same summer of 2014, and both couples had their first child within a week of each other.

Kolin met Kate Ahumada at the A16 restaurant in San Francisco when he was living nearby and she was working there as a hostess and server.

“He would come in to eat. My friend, Di, said he was one of the really really good guys,” Kate Vazzoler recalled. “One night I got really really brave and asked him out. I said ‘I hear you’re a chef; I’m a dancer. We should hang out.’

“And then we started going out ... and fell in love.”

Her husband “was such a doer,” she said. “He was always looking out for everyone else. At home he would just step in there and do whatever needed to be done. He was doing everything he could for our son that would be the best for his future.”

Making pizzas with his son in the family kitchen, “there would be flour everywhere,” she said. “When Ennio wanted to help, he would always say ‘Yes, come help.’ ”

Friend and fellow chef Douglas Keane said Vazzoler worked at his restaurant, Shimo, in Healdsburg and then his restaurant, Cyrus, also in Healdsburg, which is set to reopen in Geyserville. He called him “one of the most incredible human beings I’ve ever known.

“There is a lot of ego in the restaurant business, and with talent, there is ego. But with Kolin there was no ego; there was a lot of caring and compassion,“ Keane said. “It was a gift to work alongside him. He’s irreplaceable as far as this industry goes.”

Funeral arrangements are pending. In addition to Kate and Ennio, Kolin is survived by his parents, Marilyn and Gene Vazzoler of North Vancouver and one brother, Adam and his wife, Carol and daughter Brookelyn of Calgary.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com.

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