Kim Hess, the manager of Late Nite at Lagunita, died suddenly at home on Saturday. He was 58 years old.
He had managed the late-night kitchen at Lagunita Dining for seven years, from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and was respected by his colleagues and beloved by the students he served.
“He told me, ‘The reason I come here is the students. It begins and ends with these kids,’” said Jose Flores, a colleague of Hess’s at Late Nite, where Flores was managing operations on Sunday evening.
In a statement released by Stanford Dining, Executive Director Eric Montell wrote, “Hess was an incredible person and will be greatly missed. I am deeply saddened by our loss.” Dining announced Hess’s death in a Facebook note, where a list of condolence messages from students grew.
According to Dining, Hess apparently died of a heart attack.
Students in the dining hall offered their memories of the west campus figure and were adding messages to a public bulletin board past midnight on Monday.
“One night, I asked if I could get some chocolate chip pancakes,” recalled Erin Lence ‘13. “Not only did he say okay, but he ran back to make them.”
“I came to Kim this year with an idea to add a dish to the Late Nite menu,” said Brett Ostrander, a junior from Edwardsville, Ill. “It was a unique item from my hometown. Within a week or two, it was on the menu and has been there since.”
Not only did Hess tailor the menu to students’ requests, but he also took an interest in the lives of diners.
“Going there was like going to your dinner table at home,” said Eliza Richartz ‘13. “He cared about the food that he offered us.”
“Food is his passion,” said Julian Gropp ’11.
Gropp, a student from Germany, said he and Hess would bond over their German heritage. Hess would often greet Gropp in his basic German.
Hess served in the army, he told students, and learned several recipes during his stint.
“When he went to Korea, he learned some of the dishes,” including Korean short ribs, said JooHee Ahn ‘11. “I’m Korean, so he had me try it, and I told him it was authentic,” Ahn said. “He was really proud of that. It was authentic.”
“Same for the sausage,” Gropp added. “It was pretty authentic as well.”
“He was the face of Late Nite,” said Dorothy Pan ‘10.
Staff on west campus echoed students’ feelings.
“I think we’re all in a little bit of shock,” said Kate Chesley, a resident fellow in Roble Hall. “He just thought the world of the students here.”
Chesley said Hess often watched the Food Network to get ideas for recipes.
“He made excellence look easy,” said Ujamaa Resident Fellow Jan Barker-Alexander. “This wasn’t just a job for him.”
Hess, a resident of San Jose, is survived by five children and 10 grandchildren, according to his daughter, Michele Hess.
Details of a memorial service are forthcoming, according to Stanford Dining.