FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Whether it was for his cooking, his family or the 1986 New York Mets, Michael Rubino was seen by friends and business partners as one thing above all else: “passionate.”

“Whatever it was, he was all in,” said Peter Shuey, Director of Operations at Obicai Restaurant Group.

“He’s never going to quit. He’s never going to give up. He’s never going to let you down,” said James Khan, president of Obicai Restaurant Group.

Khan said that passion helped take an idea for a “fine dining Latin restaurant” and transform it into Próximo.

That passion also turned Rubino into a “creative force” when he was “knee-deep” in an overhaul of the menu for BakerStreet Steakhouse and infusing his ideas at The Hoppy Gnome, Khan said in a Facebook post Aug. 28.

Ultimately, Shuey and Khan said his passion and friendship will be sorely missed after Rubino passed away Aug. 25.

Michael Rubino
Michael Rubino (Photo provided by James Khan)

Khan said Rubino moved to Fort Wayne from California in 2017 before Obicai Restaurant Group opened Próximo, and when he pitched the idea of a Latin restaurant to Rubino, Khan said the rest was history.

“With the least bit of information, [Rubino] creates the menu for Próximo, and it’s, in my opinion, amazing,” Khan said.

Despite his culinary skills, Shuey said he was seen as more than just a chef to everyone around him.

“He was a friend to everybody,” Shuey said.

Although he was well-known and loved by those around Obicai Restaurant Group, Khan and Shuey said he was also someone who did not crave attention and preferred to work hard without recognition.

“He just wasn’t somebody for the spotlight,” Khan said. “He was somebody that really wanted to work hard and make life better for those that are around him.”

According to Khan’s Facebook post, Rubino is survived by his wife, his parents, his niece and “hundreds, if not thousands, of loving coworkers who were honored to call him family.”

“I just I could go back and tell him just how much he meant to me,” Khan said.

Rubino’s family decided against a funeral, according to Khan’s Facebook post, but donations can be made to his widow through GoFundMe, and Khan said the first $20,000 will be matched by Obicai Restaurant Group.

As of Sept. 6, the GoFundMe had received nearly $12,000.

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