Christopher Davis-Murai, a chef and former competitive cyclist who owned The Bicycle Chef in midtown Sacramento, collapsed and died on Thursday at his home in Sacramento. He was 51.
Jennifer Davis-Murai said that her husband had taken his mobile phone outside to finalize family plans to visit a friend, but after their son Toshiro, 7, asked to say goodnight to his father, she went outside to look for Davis-Murai. She found her husband lying prone on the ground, she said, and neither EMS technicians nor hospital staff were able to revive him. As of Tuesday evening, the Sacramento County coroner had not determined cause of death.
“He was my THG, ‘Tall, Handsome Guy,’ ” Jennifer said. “He was 6-3; I’m 5-1. He had so much energy and passion, and he was the most generous person you could meet. He loved his kids. He was a wonderful father.”
Besides his wife and son, Davis-Murai is survived by his daughter Naomi, 11; younger brothers Michael and Don; and his maternal aunt Roberta Delis. The date for a memorial has not yet been set, but family friends set up a GoFundMe account to help the family with expenses: www.gofundme.com/our-friend-bicycle-chef.
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Joshua Garcia, the owner of Sacramento’s All Seasons All Reasons Catering, said he was introduced to Davis-Murai by a mutual friend who knew Garcia was looking for a chef with presence, management know-how and creativity to work alongside him.
“He was like, ‘I know a guy who ... wants to do something part-time,’ ” Garcia recalled. “Christopher was super-involved with his children. Jennifer ran their family business (House of Fashion Bridal Salon in midtown Sacramento), and so he really needed something where he could do some work, but not constantly, because someone needed to be there for the kids.”
Davis-Murai coached both his children’s soccer teams and volunteered as a member of their league’s board, the Land Park Soccer Club.
“Chris came in like gangbusters,” said club manager Bruce Mattos. “He totally revamped our website. He improved communications with our membership. He put together an email blast template. He helped us out by doing Facebook promotions.”
An energetic cheerleader, Davis-Murai coached Naomi’s Purple Reign team to a winning season, Mattos said, and he served up the best team snacks.
Before becoming a husband and father, Davis-Murai was a Cat 2 road-bike racer, only two categories below the most elite cyclists in the world. He stopped competing after suffering an injury to his back.
Cycling was part of his DNA, said Max Mack, a competitive cyclist who trained with Davis-Murai, but he also loved cooking and had hoped to combine both those passions with a combination bike shop and cafe when he opened the Bicycle Chef in 2005.
Back then, his wife said, there proved to be too many hurdles to get an adjoining pastry shop off the ground. By 2010, Davis-Murai decided to refocus on being a chef, but his love of cycling never waned and he briefly volunteered as a board member of the Sacramento Area Bicycling Advocates.
Sue Teranishi, now treasurer on the SABA board, said she remembered Davis-Murai as a hardworking volunteer for both SABA and for Breathe California where he worked as a bike mechanic on a key fundraiser, the three-day Breathe Bike Trek.
If you didn’t meet Davis-Murai in any of the capacities mentioned above, friends say you may know him as a former barista at Espresso Metro, a bike mechanic at College Cyclery, a sales associate at Tower Books on Broadway, a bouncer at Fox & Goose on R Street, a server at Il Fornaio on Capitol Mall, a catering chef at wineries and special-event venues.
“He had dozens and dozens of jobs,” said Steve Moore Weathers, a friend of Davis-Murai’s since their days at Elk Grove High School. “He could walk into a place, and just by sheer magnetism and personality work his way into a job. I’d look for months, and Chris would find 10 jobs in the time that I would look.”
As teens, Moore Weathers recalled, the two pals often watched “Late Night with David Letterman” together, and the show honed Davis-Murai’s wit. It was a talent mentioned again and again by Davis-Murai’s friends and coworkers.
“He was the kind of guy who did impressions,” said Ty Wilson, who worked with Davis-Murai at Tower Books. “He did an impression of me. No one else has ever done an impression of me, but he had my laugh down. He had my walk down pat. ... He could really fill up a room, and he’d make you laugh.”