Walter Royal, longtime executive chef of Raleigh’s iconic Angus Barn (9401 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh), died just a few short days after his 67th birthday. An Instagram post on the restaurant’s account made the announcement yesterday evening, saying in part that the beloved chef’s “spirit, kindness, and desire to mentor others was legendary.”
Royal took the helm at Angus Barn in 1997, and according to the News & Observer was at the restaurant as recently as this past Sunday. His tenure as executive chef came after stints at Pittsboro’s the Fearrington House and his first restaurant, Durham’s the Crescent Cafe. During his time at Angus Barn he garnered numerous accolades, including a James Beard Award semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Hospitality. He also competed on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, defeating chef Cat Cora in the 2006 episode.
Remembrances and condolences from North Carolina restaurant and political luminaries immediately began pouring in Monday night on social media. Wilmington chef Keith Rhodes, himself a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef, Southeast, wrote in a post that, “Chef Walter Royal opened doors as one of the first great North Carolina African American Chefs and broke many barriers. Chef, you will be missed and thank you for your legacy.”
On Twitter, North Carolina State Senator Mike Woodward wrote, “With Walter Royal’s sudden passing, North Carolina has lost a true treasure. I bet he prepared more #ncpol meals than any other chef. Rest in peace, Chef.”
Other comments expressing disbelief and heartbreak were posted from restaurants like Durham’s Nanasteak and Raleigh’s Crawford and Son and Lucettegrace.
Royal was only one of three chefs in the Angus Barn’s storied history, and according to the News & Observer the only one to ever be granted the title of executive chef. As of publication no cause of death has been announced.