Longtime Anchorage chef Jens Hansen, proprietor of Jens' Restaurant, died Friday, according to his wife, Annelise Hansen.
"He's been ill for a while," Annelise said Saturday. "Finally his organs just gave out."
Jens was 68 and had lived in Anchorage for most of his life.
After winning a prestigious cooking contest in France, Jens, originally from Denmark, came to Alaska's largest city in 1968 at the age of 24 to work as head chef at the Hotel Captain Cook. Twenty years later, Jens opened his own restaurant on 36th Avenue, continuing to whet Anchorage's appetite for fine dining.
"He's always tried to improve the quality of the food in town," said Annelise, who described her late husband as "fun-loving, generous and a good friend."
Many of the top chefs in Anchorage learned Jens' art working for him, something Jens was proud of, Annelise said.
"He was always very interested in the young people that he trained," she said. "He was always trying to advance the careers of the young cooks he worked with."
Dozens of former employees, friends and diners that had come to know the gregarious chef over the years came to the restaurant Saturday to give their condolences, Annelise said.
"It was a total mob scene in here," she said, taking a brief break to talk to a reporter. "Of course everyone's upset. But it's the Christmas season, and he would want us to carry on. So here we are."
A memorial service for Jens Hansen is still in the planning stages.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE