Charlie Trotter, well-known chef and author who put Chicago cuisine on the map, died yesterday at his home in Lincoln Park, IL.
Trotter, born and raised in the Chicago area, never strayed far from his roots. As a student at the University of Wisconsin, he accepted a roommate's challenge to prepare a multi-course meal, and was soon hooked on tossing the cookbooks and boldly experimenting.
At age 29, with the help of his wealthy father, Trottter opened his revolutionary restaurant, Charlie Trotter's. It was an instant success. Trotter was committed to the idea of buying local and in season, long before locavore was A Thing. All of a sudden, Chicago's ho-hum reputation with foodies was shot with the adrenaline of new possibilities. Many of the area's finest chefs trained under Trotter, not an easy task, as he was known not only for his food creativity, but for his outsized temper. (Look for Trotter in the kitchen scene in My Best Friend's Wedding (2001), starring Julia Roberts, in which he delivers the memorable line, "I will kill your whole family if you don't get this right.")
Author of several cookbooks, Charlie was also a presence on PBS with his show, The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter, based on a book (1999) by the same name.
Last year, on its 25th anniversary, Trotter closed his most famous restaurant, announcing he wanted to travel with his beloved second wife, Rochelle. He had a history of strokes and lived with a brain aneurysm and felt he was on borrowed time.
In fact, Trotter had just returned from the very first Jackson Hole Culinary Conference in Wyoming where he was the keynote speaker, despite his doctor's warning not to fly with the time bomb in his head.
Trotter was just 54 years old.