One of the worlds greatest chefs & restaurateurs is dead at 54

Charlie Trotter, who put Chicago on the map as a food destination, brought serious recognition to American cuisine and was one of the first to promote sustainable sourcing died suddenly yesterday at the age of 54.

All of us who enjoy eating in restaurants — and all of you who run restaurants — owe a great debt of gratitude to Chef Trotter.

Learn more about Charlie Trotter in this NYT article and this piece on NPR, in which the president of the James Beard foundation, says Trotter told her that chefs are like musicians: “That every ingredient is like a musician’s note, and he laughed and said, ‘My father must have known I must have wanted to be a chef after he named me Charlie after Charlie Parker, the great jazz musician.’ He was somebody who really took the artistry of cuisine to another level.”

A while ago, I heard an interview with Charlie, in which he explained that fine dining is one luxury available to almost everybody.  In the interview, Charlie points out that a fine meal costs about $100 an hour and involves about 80 people.  By contrast, he explains, a decent plumber in San Francisco costs at least $115 an hour and he’s by himself.

Good point.  We’ll miss your creativity, spirit and wit, Charlie Trotter!

4 thoughts on “One of the worlds greatest chefs & restaurateurs is dead at 54

  1. This means a lot to me.
    I could take a long pause today and days/years of prior thinking of the impact Charlie has had on my life to this point. He has been completely essential to my success. While in college i started following him in the early 90’s, then late 90’s. I think i was the only person getting food/wine magazine sent to my dorm room (because of his coolness, style, technique, press coverage). I even decided to cook for a living, because of him. Years later, after a chef told me i was terrible (haa!!), I changed careers to selling-dealing- fish to highest rated restaurants in hopes to still being attached to the industry. I have worked tirelessly to improve thinking of people like him.

    Then Last year, 20+ years later (2012), my friend contacted me saying he (charlie) was closing his restaurant. We booked reservations, airfare, i missed my flight, left my dinner jacket in the car, caught another flight to st. Louis, connector to Chicago. My Buddy was very disappointed in how i was dressed. haa!! oldest jeans i had, and no jacket.

    100+ degrees, cab ride unbearable, curb side Ameritage st ( i think that’s the name) We walked to the front of the Restaurant, There he was!! He strutted off the front porch, down the stairs, Chef jacket, pink button up underneath, Like a saw “Big Foot,” “Ole Nessie”.. I was speechless. This person was actually real.

    Charlie: what can i do for you boys?
    Me: unable to talk
    Tom: Well we’re here to join you for dinner?
    Me: unable to talk
    Charlie: Here? With Me? you have Reservations?!
    Tom: Yes
    Me: unable to talk
    Charlie: Dressed like that??! (looking me over like a low grade dog meat), with an unbearable pause, long pause, a life time long pause.
    Me: “Uhhh hmm”
    Charlie: I’m just F!@#$-!@ with you, go on inside and relax, have a drink. As he slaps me on the back.

    It was a dinner i’ll never forget.


    1. Hi Vicki/Peter –
      Thanks!! It means a lot to to me. I left out that i was fired 3-4 times during the transition from through cookery to importer/fish guy. We had the Grand Menu, and my friend tom’s wife called in advance, paying for all wine, as my friend and I have birthdays within a week, and do food journey’s, but not like this one. haa!

      menu consisted of:
      Big Eye Tuna with Charred Red Onion, Mussel Vinaigrette
      Hamachi with Green Tomatoes, Avocado & Kalamata Olives
      King Salmon with Sweet Potato, Horseradish and Myoga
      Muscovy Duck with Smoked Coconut, Spring Onion & Venezuelan Chocolate
      Elysian Fields Lamb Saddle with Toasted Espresso, Crispy Veal Tendon
      RaspBerry Sorbet with Lemon Verbena Cream & Raspberry Tart
      Thyme Glazed Brioche/Blueberry Compote Lavender-Blueberry Sorbet
      Triple Criollo Riviera Cake with Lemon Balm Puree &Strawberry-Tonka Bean Sorbet
      (*all servings per with wine, 7 courses)

      Not to mention when the bread came to the table, some shaped let larger pretzels pieces, i randomly wished i had some dipping mustard with a laugh. 5 minutes later i had 4 styles of mustard served, each better than the next.

      pretty fabulous. William


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