Man­ager of ac­claimed Calumet Fish­eries dead of coro­n­avirus

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MAU­REEN O’DON­NELL, STAFF REPORTER mod­on­nell@sun­times.com | @sun­time­so­bits

Car­los Rosas was the friendly man­ager of Calumet Fish­eries, of­fer­ing sam­ples, invit­ing peo­ple to check out the smoker and re­mem­ber­ing the or­ders of reg­u­lars at a Chicago fish shack that has hooked crit­i­cal ac­claim.

Mr. Rosas, 41, died Mon­day after contractin­g the coro­n­avirus, Calumet Fish­eries posted on Face­book.

“Car­los was our am­bas­sador. He al­ways had a smile on his face and would greet you with a warm hello,” the post­ing said. “A big part of the spirit of Calumet Fish­eries went to heaven yes­ter­day.”

Mr. Rosas “loved telling peo­ple about the his­tory of the store, show­ing them the smoker,” restau­rant co-owner and pres­i­dent Mark Kotlick told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They’d al­ways ask me, ‘Is Car­los in the back?’ ”

“He was a very kind per­son,’’ said his older brother Jaime. “He loved the fish house. He loved peo­ple. He had a lot of friends.”

Mr. Rosas wel­comed An­thony Bour­dain to the eatery in 2008 when the famed chefwriter-TV food chron­i­cler was film­ing his show “No Reser­va­tions.” After Bour­dain’s 2018 death, Mr. Rosas said Bour­dain “ac­tu­ally got to know the peo­ple be­hind the counter. It wasn’t like, ‘This is my job, I’m here to do it and bye.’ He ac­tu­ally wanted to know the peo­ple.”

Young Car­los grew up at 96th and Ex­change and went to Marsh grade school and Wash­ing­ton High School, ac­cord­ing to his brother. He also stud­ied at the Cook­ing and Hos­pi­tal­ity In­sti­tute of Chicago.

Kotlick said Mr. Rosas was just “a kid out of high school” when he started work­ing at the now-92-year-old Rust Belt in­sti­tu­tion at 3259 E. 95th St. No mat­ter how long the lines got, he kept things mov­ing with ef­fi­ciency and hu­mor, he said. And he took on in­creas­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity un­til, Kotlick said, “It was ba­si­cally me and him run­ning the show.”

“If you needed help, he would go out there and help you,’’ ac­cord­ing to his brother, who said he con­tin­ued to think of oth­ers even after tak­ing ill. “His last days of be­ing at home, he was re­mind­ing him­self he needed to do the time sheets for the guys” at the fish house.

Once, he helped shop for fur­ni­ture for an­other em­ployee who was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hard­ships. An­other time, a for­mer co­worker who’d moved out of state lamented she couldn’t visit her par­ent’s grave.

“He went ahead and took flow­ers to her gravesite for her,” his brother said.

One of his fa­vorite pas­times was play­ing slots at casi­nos and en­joy­ing the oc­ca­sional jackpot, his brother said.

Mr. Rosas’ health de­clined over the course of six weeks.

“He was so con­cerned about get­ting other peo­ple sick that he hi­ber­nated,” ac­cord­ing to his brother. “He thought he was just hav­ing a hard time breath­ing.

“His oxy­gen level was get­ting lower,” he said. “He was get­ting worse by the day.”

Mr. Rosas’ fam­ily could see he didn’t look well. An am­bu­lance was called, and he en­tered a hos­pi­tal on June 12. Kotlick said rel­a­tives then had him trans­ferred to North­west­ern Memorial Hos­pi­tal, where he died.

Jaime Rosas said he and an­other sib­ling also took ill with the coro­n­avirus.

When Mr. Rosas told Kotlick he’d tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19, he closed Calumet Fish­eries and in­structed other em­ploy­ees to get tested. Kotlick also had the restau­rant pro­fes­sion­ally cleaned.

The take­out joint might look like a bait shop, but it was named a win­ner in 2010 in the pres­ti­gious James Beard Awards na­tion­wide com­pe­ti­tion, the Os­cars of the food world.

Calumet Fish­eries also has won the de­vo­tion of hun­gry din­ers who make pil­grim­ages to get the dozen or so kinds of smoked fish from the nat­u­ral wood smoke­house be­hind the shack. Also on the menu: fried and stuffed shrimp, scal­lops, smelt, cat­fish, frog legs and more.

Usu­ally, the smell is too good to wait un­til they ar­rive home. Cus­tomers dig into the fra­grant bags of fishy good­ness as soon as they get out­side.

It sits at the base of the 95th Street bridge over the Calumet River. When “The Blues Broth­ers” was be­ing filmed there in 1979, “Calumet Fish­eries hosted the movie crew,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site. “Re­mem­ber Jake and El­wood jump­ing a bridge in the Blues­mo­bile? That was the 95th Street bridge, where Calumet Fish­eries is lo­cated.”

In ad­di­tion to his brother Jaime, Mr. Rosas’ sur­vivors in­clude his par­ents Euse­bio and Maria, sis­ters Esper­anza and San­juana and broth­ers Martin and Chevo.

A wake is planned from 4 to 8 p.m. Thurs­day at Sad­owski Funeral Home, 13300 S. Hous­ton Ave. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Fri­day at St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, 10509 S. Tor­rence Ave., with burial at St. John/St. Joseph Ceme­tery in Ham­mond, In­di­ana.

SUN-TIMES FILE PHOTO

Car­los Rosas be­hind the counter at Calumet Fish­eries after the eatery was named a win­ner of a pres­ti­gious James Beard Award in 2010.

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