Last Updated: 5:43 p.m.
Note: A memorial gathering for Stephen Schoembs will be held on Saturday, March 11, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Craig-Flagler Palms Funeral Home, 511 Old Kings Rd South, Flagler Beach. In lieu of flowers family requests donations to be made to the Bariatric Surgery Fund in Memory of Stephen Schoembs; send checks to Flagler Health Care Foundation, PO Box 860216, St. Augustine, FL 32086. For credit card donations, please call, 904-819-4625.
Stephen Schoembs, a 43-year-old Flagler County native and celebrated chef locally and abroad, was found dead this morning in his car in the Walmart parking lot in Palm Coast.
Schoembs had been reported missing the day before. The cause of death has not been determined.
“It doesn’t look like there’s going to be any foul play or anything like that,” Cmdr. Bob Weber of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said this afternoon. Schoembs had struggled with his weight over the years.
Schoembs was found by his girlfriend, Ann Thomas, in his Jeep Wrangler. His mother was at the scene as well. He was lying down in the back seat, Weber said. There was no evidence of trauma or weapons. He was found just after 8 a.m., and from the look of the body, appeared to have been dead at least a while. The police scene at the parking lot was active until just after 11 a.m. The Medical Examiner claimed the body for an autopsy.
Schoembs, the son of Erica and the late Norbert Schoembs, had graduated Flagler Palm Coast High School and gone on to the Culinary Institute of America in new York before embarking on a successful career as a chef, working under master chefs in Europe–including in Germany and France–and working in Hawaii for a few years before spending several years in local restaurants and as a chef at the Hammock Beach Resort.
“It is not easy to make a pork chop look like an artistic masterpiece, but executive chef Stephen Schoembs managed to do it,” the News-Journal wrote of his work at Flagler Beach’s Cannatella’s in 2005.
He relocated to Saudi Arabia two or three years ago, heading the food service of an all-women’s college of some 40,000 students, according to Joe Rizzo, a childhood friend and classmate who co-owns several local restaurants and is now the executive director of the Flagler Education Foundation.
“He was a phenomenal human being,” Rizzo said this afternoon. “There’s not a person on earth that met Stephen and didn’t like him. He was just one of those guys. He was just larger than life, the life of the party anywhere he walked in.”
Returning from Saudi Arabia last August he joined the Hammock Dunes Club as an executive chef. “A very talented man, made the best food in the world,” Rizzo said, describing him as “an exquisite chef.” But he was apparently no longer employed there.
Trevor Tucker, the chairman of the Flagler County School Board and also a childhood friend of Schoembs’s, had last seen him at Hammock Dunes during a Teacher of the Year event in January. “Whenever I was leaving–I didn’t know he was back in the country, I thought he was still overseas–I saw him, we talked for 10, 15 minutes, next thing I see is this,” Tucker said late this afternoon.
“It’s shocking. I don’t know what else to say,” he said, describing Schoembs as a “really affable” and likable person.
According to a pair of Flagler County Sheriff’s reports released later this afternoon, Schoembs had been reported missing by his mother early on the afternoon of Feb. 27, by which time he hadn’t been seen in two days. One of the report states he was “not employed,” and would become depressed and refuse to talk to anyone. His mother told deputies that he had disappeared before. Thomas, his 42-year-old girlfriend, told deputies on Feb. 27 that she had “kicked him out of the house” at about 5 p.m. on Feb. 26 as he’d been drinking, and that previously on such occasions he’d go to hotels.
He had taken his 2009 Jeep Wrangler. His mother, who is 80, again reported him missing on March 1 in early afternoon. She told deputies at the time that she did not believe Schoembs was suicidal, but that he was depressed. His phone went straight to voicemail, and he’d left his driver’s license behind.
Richard Smith says
My heart goes out to his surviving family and girl friend. A life cut so short of a very talented man. Enjoy today as tomorrow is no guarantee.
Jan Cullinane says
Talented, warm, funny man. He will be missed.
May he Rest In Peace. I first met him when he was at Cannatella’s. Then several times over the years. He was a good person, kind hearted and genuine. What a tragedy! He shall be missed. Condolences to his family.
Thomas OConnor says
I think i may have seen him Monday morning. How was he dressed?
I feel so sad for his family and especially his mother. Chef Steve was an amazing man and I had the privilege and honor to consider him my friend when he worked at The Hammock.
Such a young talented life cut short… May the Almighty welcome him in His Kingdom and soothe his family.
Old Lady says
So sad to see such a taleted chef. RIP
Marilyn Katz says
I remember the wonderful times we had at Hammock Beach Resort at “”Cooking with chef Steve”. He made the most delicious meals& was so personable all the time. I would arrange my work schedule just so I could attend. I just saw him at Hammock Dines on New Year’s Eve. He looked great & again made a fabulous party. He will truly be missed! May he Rest In Peace.
I knew Steve from FPH, he was part of the swim team, very nice guy. We all used to hang out at Denny’s where he worked cooking was his passion. So sad to hear his passing, RIP.
Janice Nickol says
R.I.P. Steve. I had the pleasure of working with Steve at the Hammock Beach Resort, and by far, in my career that spans over 25 years, in Hotel catering, and sales, Steve was one of the best Chef I ever worked with.
He was always open to ideas I would talk to him about, and would put his magic spin on any idea, and make it out of this world!!
I am shocked, and sadden. Will miss you my friend. J.
Depression is a serious disease and kills far too many good people, causing lifelong heart-break and grief to both sufferers and survivors. My heart goes out to all his friends and family. RIP.
If depressed, stay away from alcohol and drugs. If suicidal, where can a person get help and be admitted in the nearest facility here in Palm Coast ?
Alcohol and street drugs make the depression get worse.
Carol Fisher says
You said it so well A.S.F.! Depression is so horrible. Now Steve is at peace, but all his friends and family still suffer. I offer prayers to all those left missing him.
June lynch says
I Did not have the pleasure of knowing this wonderful full of life person but by the comments he was luvd by many…may he RIH my cindolences to the family
Blaze Schoembs says
Thank you all for the warm messages really appreciate it and helping to cope with this really sad time. I’m his niece and loved him very much.
Kathy Chatfield says
I met Chef Steve when we both worked at the Hammock Beach Resort. When they were preparing to open the restaurant at the Conservatory, he made me the most amazing portabella burger to try & a fantastic dessert. His food was a work of art. We even discussed me helping him to write his own cook book. I wish we had followed thru with the idea. I feel honored to have known him. Condolences to his loved ones he left behind. You will be missed by many Chef Steve..