Former Malaga partner, chef and general manager Alejandro Duran died of a heart attack Monday in California. He was 55.
Duran joined the Malaga team as the chef when the restaurant opened in the Warehouse District in 1998 and garnered critical attention for the Spanish-influenced restaurant’s tapas dishes and impressive wine list. Malaga moved to the Second Street District in 2008.
“Alex was the best thing that ever happened to Malaga. He was Malaga,” said Malaga co-owner Greg Schnurr. “Everyone who came in wanted to see Alex. His personality was so big. He took the restaurant very seriously.”
Duran sold his partnership in Malaga in 2013 and moved to the Los Angeles area, where he was working as general manager and sommelier at Chianina Steakhouse in Long Beach at the time of his death.
Lisa Marie Pinder, who served as an assistant manager at Malaga under Duran, said her boss would call her every year on her birthday and sing her “Happy Birthday.” She described Duran as the “kind of guy who would give you the shirt off of his back” and said he helped former employees who had moved on to start their own businesses.
“He was a father figure and a mentor to a lot of people in Austin,” Pinder said.
Before joining Malaga, the Mexican-born Duran was a part owner of Five Star Bar-B-Que and Grill on Bee Cave Road and met Schnurr while serving as the chef at Good Eats Cafe.
Duran leaves behind a wife and two daughters. Services have not been finalized.