Billy Rieger, Co-Founder of Kenichi, Found Dead in Aspen Apartment

Billy Rieger, left, with Kevin Williamson at 2008 Texas Outlaw Party in Aspen.

I was stunned when I read the Outburst on Pegasus. Billy Reiger, one of the most vibrant personalities in the restaurant business, was found dead Tuesday in his North Mill Street apartment in Aspen. Apparently someone who knew Reiger was worried about him and called the police. They discovered Rieger, who had hung himself, according to the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office, in his apartment. The whole story is here.

Billy always hosted the Texas Outlaw Party at Kenichi during the annual Aspen Food & Wine Festival. The annual party, organized by Dallas’ Jeffrey Yarbrough and Kevin Williamson of Ranch 616 in Austin, was attended by Texans who made the annual trek to Aspen and a long list of national celebrity chefs and restaurateurs including Mario Batali, Jaques Pépin, and Nieporent, and Emeril Lagasse. Once everyone was gathered around and drinking Texas wine, Billy would make a dramatic entrance on his huge Harley. One time I saw him motoring down a street while standing on his cycle. He threw his arms out to the side and yelled, “I love you, guys!” He was a lover of life with an incredibly generous soul. R.I.P., Billy. Aspen and Texas will never be the same without you.

UpPDATE: Christopher Wynn’s story.