WHB’s Mourning the Loss of Beloved Chef Robert


On Sunday, April 13, the WHBHS community learned the news of the unexpected passing of Chef Robert Smalls due to complications of Diabetes.  The Hurricane Watch aired a tribute to Chef Robert on their April 17th episode.  Below are sentiments from WHB staff and students about Chef Robert.

Ms. Masterson:

What a loss for our school and to so many of us that called him our friend.

Mrs. Peters:

“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love. The people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Giada De Laurentiis & Cesar Chavez

Chef Robert, you brought the HS together through your recipes, humor and most of all love.  Forever in our hearts. Rest In Peace. <3 

Mrs. Kalisak

Losing Chef Robert is a hard pill to swallow. I am sorry to all those experiencing death for the first time or for the hundredth time. News like this doesn’t ever get easier even if you didn’t have a close connection. It doesn’t make sense when a good soul leaves us too soon. And it’s okay to be sad, mad, overwhelmed, shocked or if thinking of a good story warms your heart or if you cried or all of the above. Everyone deals with news like this in different ways and it is never the wrong way. 

This year, I was walking into school and smelt bacon. I told a few people and Chef Robert how “the baby” always craved bacon. Every morning after that, Chef Robert made sure he gave me a few pieces of bacon. It was so much more than the food, it was his thoughtfulness and the ability to brighten up someone’s day. That is just one wonderful memory I have of Chef Robert. He had a fantastic sense of humor and he always was a sweet man. RIP Chef Robert.

I am sure you guys have a ton of stories. Keep him alive through those memories. 

This hasn’t been an easy time for anyone. If you need to chat or want to share a story, feel free to write below or email or message me. There are also hotlines you can call if you are really struggling with life. The New York mental health hotline number is 1-844-863-9314.

Sending you all lots of love, hugs and comfort!!! 💜

Ms. Eagan

“People who love to eat are the best people.”- Julia Child 

Chef Robert was one of the best people. He showed his love to everyone, family, friends, students and teachers alike, by sharing his food creations with them. Chef and I had many friendly discussions about recipes; soups, appetizers and what we each had brewing in our own personal kitchens at any given moment. Most recently, he asked me to taste-test the hummus he had made for the students in the school kitchen. We both had a good laugh when we knew it needed more salt, because, salt always enhances the dish! He had a megawatt smile, a proud stature and a heart of gold. I’m kicking myself for never having gotten to try his famous fried chicken, which I’m sure requires salt 😉  Next time I’m cooking in the kitchen, salt in hand, I’ll be looking for a sign from my friend up above. 

Cheers my friend.

Mrs. Horowitz

Chef Robert was my friend in and out of school.  We loved to share our secret cooking recipes with each other as well as our military stories.

He was kind and generous and was a hard worker.  Not only did he prepare some of the best soups WHBHS ever had, as well as other delicious meals, but he was also 

the manager at Pier 1 in Riverhead. Whenever there was a great sale, he would go out of his way to find and tell me.  He was a very caring person and shared people’s concerns with respect.

WHBHS kitchen will never be the same without him. I know though, that the  love that he showed for the students, faculty, administrators and staff will be etched in our hearts forever and he will be missed deeply, especially by me.

A cup of Caring

A cup of Happiness

A cup of Energy 

A cup of Friendship

A cup of Faith

A cup of Respect

A cup of Optimism 

A cup of Bacon, potato soup

A cup of Everlasting generosity 

A cup of Real fun and laughter

A cup of Traditions and pride


It is so hard to say goodbye to a good friend, and though my words don’t express the sadness I feel, I tried to put a little something together. 

You don’t have to use it but I shared it with you.

In sadness,


Mrs. Nigg

Mrs. Nigg here from the athletic office for those who don’t know me.  Chef Robert was a colleague but mostly a friend. Most days when I came to work I would stop by the kitchen to say good morning to him.  He was either counting out the register, giving Rosa a hard time about something or starting to prepare the days soup. You know when it was cream of potato soup day as he was not happy to peal a hundred potato’s, but he did it and he did it with love as with all the other delicious soups and chilly he made.  As sad as I am knowing that I will not see him each morning, I know he is in heaven. Please keep his family, his mom, sisters and brother in your thoughts and prayers at this very sad time. Stay safe, stay healthy, be blessed.–

Mrs. VanEssendelft

Chef Rob always had me laughing even if at my own expense. I was always happier for having seen him. He brightened my days.

I often noticed that my students, who were just acquiring English, would take the risk to speak with Chef Rob. His friendly and playful nature encouraged them to give it a try. He made people feel like they mattered.

Mrs. Mett

He loved us, and we loved him.  He wasn’t just cooking for us, he was showing us how much he cared.  Losing Chef Robert is a huge loss for the WHB family.

Mrs. Lagatolla

As we all know, Chef Robert is famous for his soups.  One day I said, “My daughter (who was a freshman at the time) loves soup. She would love this broccoli-cheddar soup, but she can’t eat it any more.”

He asked,”Why?”  I explained that she can’t have gluten and had to stop eating broccoli cheddar soup at Panera. Well, did he let me have it in typical Chef Robert form,”You think there’s flour in this?” “You think I put fillers in this?” And then he shook his head like he was completely frustrated and then he explained that he mixes and purées the ingredients to the right consistency and that “there is no gluten in his soup!”

That evening my daughter came home and told me that Chef Robert brought a cup of soup over to her at her table. He then told her to not be shy and to ask about the ingredients.  

This is the Chef Robert we have come to know and love. He loved what he did and loved the kids at WHBHS. 

Mrs. Connelly:

Chef Robert was kind and welcoming. I brought my children with me one day over February break to retrieve some items from my classroom. Chef Robert met us at the door, his face lit up, and he spent 15 minutes talking to my children. He asked them about their schools, what they liked to eat, about cooking and being a chef. He took a particular liking to my son, Robert. Every day since then, Chef Robert asked me how my Robert was doing. He and my Robert both preferred to be called “Robert” not Rob or Bob- it solidified their friendship.

Ms. Vollers:

I will miss Chef Robert hunting me down to letter his soup menu boards. Of course he wouldn’t let me walk away without his potato soup in exchange, he always made sure I was fed. This was my favorite board he asked me to write for him, he really cared about the kids. He will be greatly missed. 

2019 graduate,  George Niflis: 

Chef Rob was my chef in Southold ever since I was in kindergarten and when I moved to Westhampton he ironically came the same exact year. Sometimes the rolls would run out but despite that he would always leave a roll on the side for me. Chef Rob was always known for doing generous things like that for many others. Having great conversations with him every day and tasting all of his great soups he will always be missed. May he Rest In Peace.

Mrs. Schmieder:

Chef Robert was a true professional in every sense of the word. He had so much love and pride for what he did every day–his passion was truly inspiring. I can’t imagine the cafeteria without him. 

Mrs. Mitsos:

Chef Robert and I  shared a birthday. Every year he would make it a point to stop by and give me a small gift. 

Junior Casey Gallagher:

Chef Rob and I are Dallas Cowboy fans and Mr. Rupertus is a Philadelphia Eagles fan. We made a bet with Mr. Rupertus over which team would go further in the 2018-2019 playoff season. He came into my class every week during the playoffs and would joke with Mr. Rupertus. Both teams lost in the second round but it was fun anyway!! Gonna miss him so much.

Mrs Kearns: 

I’ll cherish the memories of Chef Robert with his smile filled with positivity in the early mornings as we walked into the building. There he was, standing by the cafeteria door, talking to Mr. Bookamer, acknowledging everyone who came in. He made everyone’s day start just how it should be: filled with kindness and happiness. May we always live up to that!

Senior Grayson Fox: 

Through the four years that I had known chef robert he always treated me as one of his friends. Prior to me even meeting him, he had worked with my grandmother at Pier 1 imports. He would constantly joke around with my lunch table and bring smiles every day. He had always joked about wanting a sweatshirt from my dad company. I told him I would get him one but constantly forgot, this year I managed to remember and bring him the sweatshirt, the smile on his face was one I’ll never forget. I’ll miss him so much and am so sad he won’t be able to see us graduate.

For more sentiments about Chef Robert, visit @whbhurricanewatch’s post from April 13th on Instagram.