News Column

Charlie Trotter Dies at 54

November 5, 2013

Rosemary Regina Sobol, Jeremy Gorner, Phil Vettel and Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

Nov. 05--Charlie Trotter, whose eponymous Chicago restaurant was considered one of the finest in the world, has died.

The 54-year-old chef was found unconscious and not breathing in his Lincoln Park home this morning and was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Trotter was found by his son Dylan at the home in the 1800 block of North Dayton Street and an ambulance was called at 10:45 a.m., according to a family friend and fire officials.

"My baby's gone," Trotter's wife Rochelle told the friend, Carrie Nahabedian.

Steve Kolinski, a neighbor who lives several houses down, said he came outside late this morning and saw six police cars and an ambulance pulled up at Trotter's home. Kolinski then saw Trotter's wife, who ran outside and was "yelling hysterically.''

Trotter was wheeled out on a stretcher and taken away, he said. Trotter's wife and son then left.

Another neighbor, Bunny Snyder, who lives across the street, said she was alerted by sirens and saw fire trucks outside Trotter's home.

Snyder remembered Trotter fondly, and said he was known as "Chef'' to those in the close-knit neighborhood.

"He was terrific on the street," Snyder said, adding that he would usually attend their summer block party and she would often see him walking a dog.

"He used to partake in our street fair every year and put out a table,'' Snyder said. "He was a good neighbor."

Trotter burst on the scene in 1987, when the self-taught chef opened Charlie Trotter's restaurant on Armitage Avenue. In short order, the chef's intense creativity and never-repeat-a-dish dictum made Trotter's the most talked-about restaurant in Chicago, and his fame quickly spread throughout the country and beyond.

He was named the country's Outstanding Chef by James Beard Foundation in 1999; in 2000, Wine Spectator magazine called Trotter's the best restaurant in the nation. More awards and accolades followed, including a 2002 Beard Award for Outstanding Service; at the time, Trotter called it the award he was most proud to receive, as it represented "a team award."

The mercurial chef was a stern taskmaster who demanded the absolute best from everyone who worked for him. He was also a man of uncommon generosity, creating the Charlie Trotter Education Foundation to provide scholarships for culinary students. He received the James Beard Foundation's Humanitarian of the Year award in 2012.

"Charlie was an extreme father figure to me when it came to not just cooking, but life, and seeing things in a different way," said chef Graham Elliot Bowles, one of many famous chefs who worked for Trotter. "I just can't put into words how saddened I am by all of this. It's a huge loss, not just personally, but for the culinary world."

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(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: Famed chef Charlie Trotter found dead in home



Source: (c)2013 the Chicago Tribune


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