Community steps up to fundraise for family of Regina chef who died after contracting COVID-19

·3 min read
Warren Montgomery, far right, is the owner and chef at The Big Easy Kitchen in Regina. He died on Tuesday. (Submitted by Kandace Holness/GoFundMe - image credit)
Warren Montgomery, far right, is the owner and chef at The Big Easy Kitchen in Regina. He died on Tuesday. (Submitted by Kandace Holness/GoFundMe - image credit)

Community members and local businesses have stepped up to fundraise for the family of a Regina chef who died on Tuesday morning after contracting COVID-19.

Warren Montgomery, originally from New Orleans, was the chef behind The Big Easy Kitchen in Regina. He had been posting about his journey with COVID-19 before being hospitalized and placed in intensive care. In a post on GoFundMe, it said he died Tuesday morning with his wife by his side.

The family has declined to be interviewed at this time.

Three fundraisers were started for the family while he was in the ICU:

  • A GoFundMe was set up by a neighbour and friend.

  • Local and Fresh and Agave Authentic Mexican Grill are holding a taco platter Tuesday fundraiser.

  • Agave is also holding a Wednesday Cajun fish feast.

"Warren is a guy that's just full of life and always brought a smile and brought his passion. I've never seen someone more passionate about cooking New Orleans style and just bringing his culture into his food," Tim Shultz, co-owner and CEO of the Local and Fresh told CBC News on Monday before Montgomery had died.

"He was just doing everything he could to make a business and to try to bring his culture to Regina."

Shultz first met Montgomery after the Local and Fresh opened in 2019; Montgomery was the first rotating chef in their kitchen. It closed in early 2020 due to the pandemic.

Montgomery came back briefly in the fall, but Shultz had to shut it down again in the winter. Before Montgomery's hospitalization, Shultz said, the two were talking about getting some of Montgomery's food in stock at the business.

Shultz said he first heard Montgomery, his wife and two children had COVID-19 after Montgomery shared on social media that he was not doing well. Shultz then spoke to Montgomery's wife and found out she and her daughters were OK but Montgomery was hospitalized.

"It was a big shock," Shultz said. "We just realized the gravity of the situation and … we felt like we had a platform here that we could do something with."

The response to the fundraisers has been swift. They sold out 100 platters quickly for the taco Tuesday and expanded it to 200. In the end, that fundraiser raised between $5,000 to $6,000 directly for the family.

"We really didn't know what we were expecting, but we didn't expect it to go this fast," Shultz said. "We were just completely blown away by the community support.

"I just hope that it shows the people care," he said. "The community has come out in droves to share their love with the family. And hopefully we'll do something just to inspire hope. Sometimes that's what you need."

Warren Montgomery was the owner and chef of The Big Easy Kitchen in Regina. He brought flavours from New Orleans to the Queen City.
Warren Montgomery was the owner and chef of The Big Easy Kitchen in Regina. He brought flavours from New Orleans to the Queen City. (Submitted by Kandace Holness)

Agave Authentic Mexican Grill is holding the third fundraiser Wednesday. People can pre-order Tuesday or order the Cajun Fish Taco Feast all day Wednesday for $49.99 and all proceeds go to Montgomery's family. People can order online or by calling the restaurant.

Shultz said he hopes people recognize the huge impact COVID-19 can have on families and people.

"It's situations like this that just really remind us that, yes, it is real and, like, Warren was 42 years old ... It can affect anyone," Shultz said. "It is so important to just be careful and do the things that we can each individually do to try to help."