Sadly, news has reached chefhermes.com that legendary chef Charlie Trotter has died this morning in Chicago. He was found by his son, Dylan, unconscious and not breathing.
Charlie Trotter exploded onto the US culinary scene in 1987 with his new vision of restaurant food. I first encountered chef Trotter’s work in the mid nineties, when I flicked through a fellow chef’s copy of Charlie Trotter’s.
It was a revelation; clean, controlled looking food, provenance was playing a key part in the sourcing of ingredients and a greater use of flavoured oils and dressings instead of stock based sauces. He broke new ground in production values, with amazing photography and detailed recipes, breaking each component of the dish down.
Charlie Trotter eponymous restaurant gained global recognition, in a time before Michelin in the US and The Worlds 50 Best list. That isn’t to say he wasn’t bestowed with accolades & awards; Several James Beard Foundation awards (including Humanitarian of the year in 2005 & 2012), Relais Gourmand, Fine Dining Hall of Fame in 1991 and Five stars from the Mobil Travel Guide, to name a few.
The self taught Trotter started his culinary journey whilst still at University studying Political Science; cooking for friends from a mountain of cookery books, he quickly progress to catering for dinner parties. In 1982 he took the plunge professionally, he worked and studied in Chicago, San Francisco at the California Culinary Academy, Florida and Europe. After an intensive five years away he returned to Chicago and opened ‘Charlie Trotter’s’ on August 17th 1987.
In 1999, he started ‘Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation’:
The Program has two main priorities: awarding scholarships to students who are seeking careers in the culinary arts and working with Chicago-area youth to promote the enthusiastic quest for education as well as an interest in the cooking and food.
To date, the foundation has raised over $1,000,000 to help young people into the culinary arena.
On New Years Eve 2011, Trotter announced that his 2Michelin starred Chicago eatery would close in August 2012, much to the dismay of the culinary world. Chef Trotter wanted to free up time to pursue his Masters degree and do some travelling.
On a personal level I feel greatly saddened by the loss of Charlie Trotter, the word legend is used too frequently. But Charlie Trotter was clearly one of the highest order, he will be missed by many.
Rest in peace, Chef Trotter