TRIBUTE: As those who knew and loved her continued to mourn the death of North Jersey celebrity chef Jessica Vogel at only 34 years old, her family spoke of how determined the former contestant of the Food Network's "Hell's Kitchen" was, no matter the odds.
Vogel -- affectionately known as "Jessie" -- loved food.
"Not just a strong appreciation for a good meal, but a true fascination with the genius required to pick quality ingredients and combine them in a unique and innovative way to create a true culinary experience," her family wrote. "As a result she was very difficult to have dinner with because most meals fell far short."
She loved her sister, Caitlin, her lifelong best friend. She loved her parents, Donna Bruchmann and Mark Vogel -- as well as Morgan, whom she rescued as a puppy.
And she loved her craft.
"Jessica was fearless when it came to work, never backing down from a challenge," her family wrote.
A Jersey Shore native who'd recently lived in Westwood before returning to her parents' Spring Lake home, Vogel competed on "Hell’s Kitchen" and "Cutthroat Kitchen," becoming a local legend for foodies not just in Bergen County but throughout North Jersey.
She'd been a pastry chef at Grange in Westwood, then a sous chef at Picnic on the Square in Ridgewood and, later, an executive chef at Artisan Kitchen & Bar in Hawthorne and Black Rebel Burger in Hackensack. It seemed everyone in the business knew her.
Vogel certainly felt the pressure.
"In these difficult times, there is immense pressure on young people to stand out in a world where the intimate details of our lives are made public in blogs and on Facebook," her family said. "This took a toll on Jessica and over the years she would escape to drugs and alcohol.
"She recently committed to living a better life and had graduated from an inpatient rehabilitation program with hopes of regaining control of her life.
"Unfortunately, the damage done over the years was too great and she died like she lived, a fighter."
The message Vogel leaves is not "sex drugs and Foie Gras," they said, quoting a recent blog post -- but, rather, the importance of "appreciating your talents, always working hard to improve, but to never forget that it is the loving heart that truly changes the world."
Jessie Vogel died Monday after reportedly being in and out of several hospitals for more than a year with what she'd said was cirrhosis of the liver. Her longtime boyfriend, John Michael Keyser, reportedly said that she'd died from colitis.
Visitation was held Thursday. Burial was private.
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