Facebook executive chef had ties to Ocala area
Josef Desimone died Monday in motorcycle crash
Published: Friday, July 26, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.
SILVER SPRINGS SHORES -- William Desimone remembers his son Josef's christening day. Josef's grandfather, Ernest, held the infant in his arms 44 years ago and said, “This one's going to do something someday.”
“I'll never forgot those words,” Desimone said. “Obviously, it came true.”
Josef, called “Joey” by family members, went to culinary school in Charleston, S.C., and his career spiraled upward. For the last five years, he worked as an executive chef for Facebook, Inc., in Menlo Park, Calif., and traveled the world setting up corporate cafes at the company's properties.
“He lived life to the fullest,” William Desimone, who lives in Silver Springs Shores, said about his son.
On Monday, Josef Desimone, 44, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Columbus, Ohio. He and his brother, William Jr., known as Billy, were on a cross-country motorcycle trip from Charlotte, W. Va., to California.
According to the grieving father, the weather was bad Monday night. Billy was leading on his bike with Joey following behind. As the two men approached a difficult intersection, there was an SUV with a flat tire stopped in the road. Billy was able to swerve his bike, but Joey could not and crashed his bike. He died at the scene.
Thousands of entries were made in response to a posting Monday by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing Joey's death, which reads:
“Josef was a Facebook legend and institution. ‘Chef Josef' joined us in 2008 and built our culinary team from a handful of employees in a single cafe into a global team with dozens of world class restaurants. He never compromised on quality while maintaining total attention to detail. Josef played an incredibly important role in defining our culture during those first years and right up to the present.
“Away from Facebook, Josef was just as energetic and driven. Almost every weekend he was volunteering with veterans' organizations, hosting firefighter breakfasts or supporting some other valuable cause. He had a strong belief in giving back more in life than he took, and it shows in all the people who mourn him today.”
Zuckerberg apparently had confidence in Joey, so much so that “Chef Josef” prepared the food for Zuckerberg's wedding.
“He left that all up to Joey,” William Desimone said. “Facebook is going to have a big celebration in honor of my son.”
He said he likely will not attend the Aug. 3 event.
“I don't think I would have the emotion for it,” he said.
The family is planning a memorial mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Silver Spring Shores in September, at a date yet to be determined.
Desimone and his wife, Debra, Joey's stepmother, remember him as fun-loving. They said he enjoyed sports and music, and was a loyal friend who was charitable, generous and loved children, and who had a wonderful sense of humor.
“Uncle Joey was like Santa Claus,” Desimone said about the way his son treated his one niece and four nephews. “He loved to sit and talk with them and find out what is going on in their lives.”
And he loved to cook, but he never cooked for his father and Debra, they said. When he would come to visit them in between his whirlwind trips around the world and his busy life in California, they would go out to eat so they could sit and talk.
But an affinity for cooking seems to run in the family.
“I cooked for him - spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, Thanksgiving dinners,” said Desimone, who is a retired mechanic. “My daughters are good cooks, too, excellent cooks and bakers. And Joey's brother, Billy, also is a chef, who runs a catering business and owns a diner in West Virginia.
Joey was born in North Syracuse, N.Y., the youngest of four children. He moved to South Florida with his family when he was 2 years old. When his parents divorced, he moved to Gainesville with his mother, Janet Lowe, where he went to elementary school. He went to high school in Dania and, while there, went to work at the First Watch restaurant. As an adult, he worked as a house painter but, when he was about 30 years old, he told his father he could not see himself doing that work when he got older.
“He decided to go to culinary school because he always liked to cook,” Desimone said.
After culinary school, Joey, who was divorced and had no children, took a job at a hotel restaurant in San Francisco. He then went to work for Google to set up their cafes. Facebook lured him away for a similar job.
Debra said Joey was not a name-dropper but in conversation would mention casually that he had cooked with celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck.
“We are learning things about Joey and his life we didn't know because he was not a bragger,” Debra said about reading the many online postings.
“Joey always had a good time whether it was with us or with his friends. He kept friends from high school. When he was your friend, he was a friend for life,” Debra said.
Desimone said he never realized his son was such a celebrity.
“He was definitely family-oriented,” he said.
Family photos show Joey smiling with his brother, Billy, and his sisters, Donna and Karen, at his side.
“He worked hard and he played hard,” Desimone said.
Contact Susan Latham Carr at 352-867-4156 or email@example.com.
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