Longtime Inland Empire restaurant critic dies in Missouri car crash

Longtime Inland Empire restaurant critic Allan Borgen, who for decades hosted radio and public television shows that highlighted local eateries, died Saturday in a car crash in Missouri.

He was traveling with his "Let's Dine Out" co-host and partner, Isabelle "Izzy" Busse, who also died from injuries she suffered in the crash, according to local officials.

"All of us at KCAA are deeply saddened at the tragic loss of our friends and fellow broadcasters," KCAA General Manager Mark Westwood and Chief Executive Fred Lundgren wrote in a statement shared on Facebook. "4 p.m. on Saturdays will never be the same without 'Let's Dine Out.' We will miss them greatly."

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Borgen and Busse together hosted "Let's Dine Out with Allan Borgen" weekly on KCAA, a Loma Linda-based AM and FM broadcaster. The couple also had been hosting monthly "Grub Club" dinners to connect with other foodies at local restaurants — with the one scheduled for later this month already sold out, Borgen's son, Michael Borgen, said.

“He cared about restaurants, but he cared about people more than anything,” said Michael Borgen, who worked for years on the set of his father's shows and, more recently, ran an online food review platform with his dad known as FeedMe411.

"His passion was food," his son said. "On top of having a heart of gold, he wanted people to feel good."

The elder Borgen had been a social worker before transitioning into the foodie world, becoming a self-made expert in eateries even before the Food Network had taken off, Michael Borgen said.

"You can’t have a community without good food,” Michael Borgen recalled his dad saying.

Borgen, who was a Hawaiian shirt fanatic, was also a longtime food critic for KVCR-TV, the Inland Empire's PBS station, hosting restaurant review shows there for 32 years, including "Table for Two" and later "Let's Dine Out," according to a statement shared on social media by KVCR.

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"Allan’s easy smile and friendly demeanor will be remembered fondly by the KVCR staff, his viewers and foodies all across the Inland Empire and Southern California," KVCR said in the memorial post.

His license plate spelled out "Mr. Food" and his favorite cuisine was “anything edible," according to his son. The elder Borgen also wrote restaurant reviews for the San Bernardino Sun, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and Redlands Daily Facts, according to the Sun, and served annually as a judge for the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.

Michael Borgen said his father wasn't in his line of work to leave harsh critiques but to help restaurants improve their food, and in turn, stay in business.

"He wanted to make it better for everybody, especially the restaurateur," Michael Borgen said. He said he's heard from several restaurant owners and chefs over the last few days, many of whom told touching stories about his dad.

"He cared about them more than he cared about himself," Michael Borgen said through tears. “There will definitely not be another Allan Borgen; he’s a one of a kind.”

Borgen, 75, was driving Saturday on Interstate 44 in Laclede County, Mo., when a large truck going the opposite direction crossed the median and hit Borgen's vehicle, killing him, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol crash report. Busse, 54, was transported to a hospital, where she later died.

Neither Borgen nor Busse, who both lived in Redlands, shied away from an adventure and the opportunity to try new foods, Michael Borgen said.

Busse and Borgen had been together the last few years, and Busse had become part of their extended family, Michael Borgen said.

“When she came along, it was wonderful," the younger Borgen said, calling her a perfect match for his dad. They both looked out for each other, yet were still independent — and obviously into good food.

"She was a sweetheart," Michael Borgen said. "They traveled and ate and loved."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.