29-year-old Maui executive chef dies of COVID

Coronavirus

MAUI (KHON2) — COVID-19 has already taken the lives of many. On Friday, Sept. 17, Chris Lederer lost his battle with the coronavirus. The Maui executive chef was in the hospital since July. His fiancee shared her heartbreaking story and hoped the success he achieved during his life will inspire others.

Chris Lederer was passionate about food.

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“He just flowed,” Katrell Mokuahi said. “It was his realm. He started off with Chef Roy (Yamaguchi). And that was straight out of high school.”

Mokuahi was Chris’ high school sweetheart — they were engaged to be married in December 2022.

Chris was a local boy originally from Paoa. He and Mokuahi moved to Maui several years ago.

Chris always dreamed big.

“Back in the day, he would always say that, ‘one day I’m going to be big’,” Mokuahi said. “He said that his personal goal was to become an executive chef before he was 30. He did it. He did it,” she said as tears flowed down her face.

He was named the executive chef of The Westin Maui Resort and Spa. Everything went his way until he came down with a cold that turned out to be COVID. Mokuahi took him to the ER on Maui on Wednesday, July 14.

“It was a very scary situation. Very scary, very intimidating,” she said.

Chris was intubated a few weeks after he was taken to the hospital, and his condition continued to get worse. But Mokuahi was still able to see him virtually.

“The nurses that take care of them are just so amazing,” she said. “They had an iPad that they’re able to set up, prop up to see them. They believe that they’re still able to hear you, and it’s a good healing process to be able to hear the ones that you love. So, I appreciated that so much.”

Despite everyone’s best efforts, Chris’ condition worsened.

“By the grace of God, I was. I was able to be there and talk to him before he passed,” Mokuahi said.

Chris died on Friday, Sept. 17. Mokuahi admitted they were both unvaccinated, but she did not want to push that.

“We both were never into politics or vaccinated or unvaccinated,” she explained. “We believe heavily into people having their rights and choices as their own.”

Mokuahi now wants his life to become an inspiration for others.

“Dream big, because you never know what you truly could accomplish in this life. You don’t know if tomorrow is going to be there. So why not? You know, why not take the risk.”

Katrell Mokuahi, fiancee of Chris Lederer

She plans to honor his memory by helping other budding chefs get their start.

“He would give the shirt off his back. He has come up from literally the gutter to such an amazing accomplishment of executive chef,” Mokuahi said. “I really do want to start a scholarship in his name, too, to memorialize him, as well as to help others who have the same passion.”

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

If anyone would like to make a donation to help Lederer’s ohana pay for his funeral arrangements, you can reach out to @honeybubblez or @smash_maui on Instagram. Funeral services and his celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

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