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Cops: Chef said he was OK 2 hours before being found dead

Keith S. Greene, 35, of Hampton Bays, was

Keith S. Greene, 35, of Hampton Bays, was a chef for many of the area's best known restaurants. Officials say he drowned at a local beach Wednesday morning. (Aug. 15, 2012)

Less than two hours before he was found dead in the water off Wyandanch Lane Beach, a popular Hampton Bays chef told a police officer he was OK, just swimming and hanging out in the water, Southampton Village Police said Thursday.

Police are investigating what happened Tuesday, from the time Keith S. Greene, 35, the executive chef at Schmidt's Food Market in Southampton, gave the officer a thumbs-up sign, to when his body was discovered in the water, Det. Sgt. Herm Lamison of the Village Police said.

Lamison said Thursday the case is being investigated and refused to speculate on a cause of death, pending an autopsy by the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

Police received three emergency calls between 8 a.m. and 9:14 a.m. Tuesday about a swimmer in distress, Lamison said, and an officer went to the beach shortly after the third call to investigate.

Lamison said the officer found Greene swimming. Greene spoke to the officer, gave him a "thumbs up sign" and said he was just "hanging out in the water," Lamison said.

Greene's body was discovered at about 11 a.m. by a couple walking on the Southampton beach, police said. Lamison said a witness reported not seeing Greene after 10:50 a.m.

Greene grew up in the restaurant business and appeared in 2006 as a contestant on "Hell's Kitchen," a chef-competition-humiliation show on Fox. He finished third behind winner Heather West of Port Jefferson, executive chef at Ciao Baby in Commack and Massapequa Park.

With Stacey Altherr, Bill Mason and Erica Marcus

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