Today the culinary world lost an icon and a true trailblazer for gastronomy. Many met Charlie through his books, appearances, dinners at the restaurant or in front of the tv while watching “The Kitchen Sessions.” Chef could best be described as mercurial. You knew he had a vision and he was getting there with or without your help.
I was out on the golf course when my phone seemed to explode with vibration and alerts from friends reaching out about his sudden and unexpected passing. My game like many people’s day when they heard the news went south. No one expected him to be gone this suddenly. You had to wonder did he have another chapter of excellence left to write whether it was food or some new avenue of interest the man excelled and pushed others to exceed their limitations.My time with Charlie was brief but like everyone else who worked with him – he made an impact that you still think about. Positive or negative, you felt something when you were around chef.
My heart goes out to Dylan and Rochelle for losing a father and husband. I feel for my fellow Trotter alums. We’re an extended family with a common bond and a shared vision. If you go in to many of those chefs and sommeliers restaurants, there are underlying themes you can’t miss. The level of detail, excellence and achievement all began with chef Trotter. He planted a seed that has grown. He may not of had as many restaurants as other famous chefs but the chef and sommelier tree that sprang from Charlie Trotter’s on Armitage is one of the biggest and strongest families you’ll ever find. Sadly, his story ended today but his legacy will be felt for many years to come.
There are words I’d like to write to some today but I know chef would ask, “Why? They don’t get it and they never will.” It’s not worth the time and as much as it frustrates me I know he’s right. From the discussions I’ve had offline today, I know it isn’t going unnoticed by others in the restaurant community.
If you never had a ‘Trotter experience,’ I suggest you start with his book “Lessons in Excellence’ and then the cookbooks. Get them all and take your own culinary path with them. Charlie loved jazz and would be happiest knowing you took an idea from the book and made something new on your own.
I’m sad I won’t be at the candle light vigil but I will be ordering a great bottle of wine at dinner and indulging more then I had planned!
Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at firstname.lastname@example.org