Hope Hushion Photo courtesy of Jessica Nolette

Hope Hushion, a former sous chef at Fore Street restaurant in Portland known for her boisterous laugh and passion for life, died Friday. She was 44.

Hushion took her own life, according to her family and close friends.

She was sous chef at Fore Street, one of Portland’s best-known restaurants, for several years. She also worked briefly at Street & Co., and then at Scales when it opened in 2016. She returned to Fore Street and worked there until 2018, when she took a hiatus from the restaurant business.

Sam Hayward, chef-partner at Fore Street, released a statement Tuesday saying Hushion’s death shocked everyone who knew and worked with her. He said she was a force of nature and a powerful cooking professional.

“She was an essential member of our kitchen’s leadership, a sous chef capable of accomplishing anything we threw at her, running any station, and training any novice cook,” Hayward wrote in an email. “Her death has left many of her former colleagues and close friends crushed. My condolences go out to all of them. Hope will be deeply missed.”

Tara O’Connor, a former bartender at Fore Street, said Hushion was a great cook and friend.

“Her friendship was always so easy,” O’Connor said. “No expectations, no judgment … just pure, fierce loyalty and love. Being around her gave the kind of comfort that is so rare. I think she was so magic because she put people at ease like that. People could be their true selves around her.”

A Connecticut native, Hushion graduated from the School of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. She worked in renowned restaurants in Portland and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

From 2010 to 2012, she was sous chef at The Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. She was also a sous chef at L’etoile Restaurant in Edgartown, Massachusetts, from 2013 to 2015. A highlight of her culinary career was serving former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama while working on Martha’s Vineyard.

Hushion lived in Portland and was well-loved in the city’s restaurant scene. Jessica Nolette, owner of Flask Lounge, said Hushion was her first customer when she opened the bar in 2007. She said Hushion had a big laugh and a generous heart.

“She came in the night Flask opened and we were buds ever since,” Nolette said. “Hope was super intelligent. She knew a lot about a lot, and she could talk to anyone she met. There’s no one out there that didn’t like Hope. She was someone you always wanted around to make you laugh and smile. She was very free-spirited and up for anything.”

Nolette recalled a particularly memorable after-hours competition at Flask.

“Hope was like, ‘I’m a gymnast. I can do a round-off.’ She just forgot to put down her arms and face-planted,” Nolette said, laughing. “It was terrible, but it was the funniest thing ever. There was nothing Hope couldn’t do except a round-off after 1 a.m.”

Hushion took a hiatus from cooking three years ago and left Portland for North Carolina to live with her father. She returned to Portland last week.

“I don’t know what happened,” Nolette said. “Whatever demons Hope had, she’s at peace now. There’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

Hushion is survived by her mother, Sandra LaGuardia, of Stamford, Connecticut, her father and stepmother, Robert and Lynn Hushion, of Andrews, N.C.; her brother Rob Hushion of Stratford, Connecticut, and her nieces, Hallie and Madison.

Her aunt, Alice Kelly of Waltham, Massachusetts, said Hushion was very close to her family and always made time to call and visit.

“She was the light of our lives,” Kelly said, breaking down. “She loved her family. We’re going to miss her. Her laugh was contagious. She was such a great kid. I can’t understand what happened. This is hard. This is very hard.”

A celebration of Hushion’s life will be held from 6-9 p.m. July 19 at Flask Lounge on Spring Street.

If you are concerned about yourself or about somebody else, call the suicide crisis hotline at 1-888- 568-1112. If you are not in Maine, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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