Eddie Keys III asked a lot of questions.
The 33-year-old chef, who was found shot to death in the driver’s seat of his vehicle Tuesday morning, wanted to know in culinary school: What would happen if you cold-smoked an egg?
“It tasted just like an egg,” said Louisiana Culinary Institute director David Tiner, for the record, having tried Keys’ egg experiment. Keys graduated from the school on Airline Highway last year. “But had he not asked the question, we would not have had the answer,” Tiner said. “(Eddie) was the one that asked the questions that maybe nobody wanted to ask.”
Now family and friends have their own questions — wondering how Keys, of 2100 College Drive, wound up with multiple gunshot wounds around 2 a.m. in the 1800 block of South Acadian Thruway.
Shattered pieces of a car bumper and skid marks were all that remained late Tuesday morning from the crash that happened after Keys was shot by someone in another automobile. There are no suspects or motives in the killing, said Baton Rouge Police spokesman Cpl. Don Coppola.
There’s no reason to believe the homicide was gang- or group-related, said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore, who added the crime is still under investigation.
“I can’t imagine who would have wanted to hurt him,” said Patricia Johnson, the culinary schools’ admissions officer. Keys called her “Mom,” she said. Johnson became close with Keys after he appeared in her office one day in 2013 with hopes of making a career out of cooking, which she said he called “his happy place.”
“He was a really, really good man. He was one of those people that, he had a dream,” she said, adding Keys had a daughter. Keys’ wife didn’t respond to a request for comment, but her father, 63-year-old William Farris, said Keys loved to cook Cajun food. “He came up with his own recipes,” he said.
Some of those creations turned into nightly specials at Sno’s Seafood and Steak in Gonzales, where Keys had been working as a sous-chef for about a month, said the restaurant’s owner, Todd Sheets.
Keys was “a real good employee, willing to learn,” Sheets said. “You could see he was energetic.” He came highly recommended by Tiner, who had worked at Sno’s and knew Keys could manage other people in the high-stress environment of a kitchen, Tiner said.
The restaurant wasn’t open Monday, so Keys wouldn’t have been traveling home from his job there at the time of the shooting, Sheets said.
A former classmate remembered how during a cooking competition, Keys swiftly corrected his mistake after miscalculating the ingredients in a corn maque choux pie, a Cajun delicacy. Though it didn’t win the contest, Keys’ dedication made an impression.
“He worked hard to basically prove himself in an industry where there was a lot of promising people, especially in a state which is full of great food,” said Kelli Scott, 25.
“It’s just shocking, somebody that’s so promising, somebody that a lot of people looked up to, is gone,” Scott said. “It’s just thrown me off all day.”
By many accounts Keys was sweet — Sera Bourdier, 24, a former classmate, called him a “teddy bear.” And he could put on an adorable pout, said another schoolmate, N. Rena Payne.
“I think we were out of his favorite tea — he LOVED tea,” wrote Payne, in an email. “Our class teased him and then started calling him CBK. This was his nickname and it stood for Cry Baby Keys. He embraced it! He was just that way.”
A memorial for Keys is being organized by the Louisiana Culinary Institute, which posted a tribute to Keys on its Facebook page Tuesday.
Anyone with any information is urged to contact the Baton Rouge Police Violent Crimes Unit at (225) 389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.