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Well-known chef Bill Sohovich dies at age 61

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bill Sohovich, well-known area chef and restaurateur, has died following a long illness. He was 61.

Sohovich, who had been ill for some time, died late Wednesday night at Charleston Area Medical Center's Memorial Hospital, said William Freeman, a friend of the family and chef at Soho's Restaurant at Capitol Market.

Sohovich died at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday after a long illness, said his stepdaughter, Amie Dodson.

He loved the restaurant business even though it was hard work and challenging, Dodson said.

"He was passionate about it," she said. "He enjoyed his work, especially the people. He had a good reputation around town as far as his abilities and what he could do in the kitchen. He was well liked by people in the community."

He told the Daily Mail in past interviews that cooking was a favorite pastime as a child.

"I've always cooked something from the time I was little," Sohovich said in 2004. "My mom and grandmother were good cooks.

"I live for heat and sauté pans. I'm just a good cook."

Sohovich ran Blossom Deli & Soda Fountain on Quarrier Street in downtown Charleston from 1994 to 2010. In 2008 he opened Billy's at Southridge Centre in the former Smokey Bones spot but attempts there did not work out.

Allan Hathaway, who owns the Purple Onion produce store at the opposite end of the market, had been friends with Sohovich for more than 10 years.

He said they joked about occupying both ends of the market and that they talked quite a bit up until Sohovich's illness took him out of the restaurant. Sohovich often ventured down to the store to chat.

"Bill was one of those people you always wanted to see," Hathaway said. "You know, some people you say hi to but you don't really want to stand around and talk with for 20 minutes -- it wasn't like that with Bill. I enjoyed it when he came down to talk.

"He would always make you feel good. To me he was just very complimentary, always saying 'you're on the right track' or 'keep doing what you're doing,'" Hathaway said.

Hathaway said he would sometimes try to find new and different foods for Sohovich's restaurant.

"He had a passion for what he did," Hathaway said. "He loved the restaurant business. He loved the food.

"He would say it's a bear out there but he enjoyed every bit of it."  

Sohovich and wife, Sharon, opened Soho's in 2002.

Sohovich, who grew up in Kanawha City and finished high school in Morgantown, began washing dishes in pizzerias in the 1960s. In the '70s, he worked in his stepfather's restaurant in Columbus and then furthered his skills at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He has worked everywhere from steakhouses and resorts to fine restaurants and country clubs.

Before he opened Blossom, Sohovich worked at Edgewood Country Club and at Charleston Marriott's Tarragon Room.

Snodgrass Funeral Home, 4122 MacCorkle Ave. S.W. in Charleston, is in charge of arrangements. Friends may call 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home. The service will be 1 p.m. Monday with Chaplain Pete Thompson officiating.


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