Award-winning chef Charlie Trotter, a self-taught culinary master whose eponymous Chicago restaurant elevated the city’s cuisine and provided a training ground for some of the nation’s other best chefs, has died at the age of 54.
Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said rescue crews were called to his Lincoln Park home, where they found Trotter unresponsive. Langford said an ambulance crew transported Trotter to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died after unsuccessful attempts to revive him.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office said it was notified, and an autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.
Trotter’s name is synonymous with US gourmet cuisine. He earned 10 James Beard Awards and provided a training ground for some of the country’s other best-known chefs, such as fellow Beard Award-winner Grant Achatz of Chicago restaurants Alinea and Next.
Charlie Trotter’s earned two stars when the highly respected Michelin Guide debuted in Chicago.
“His restaurant shaped the world of food,” said Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine.
“He was so innovative and focused and intense and really brilliant. When he opened Charlie Trotter he was so original.”
His legacy will be “a passion for perfection and innovation”, she said.
In keeping with his reputation for bold, unexpected moves, Trotter closed the iconic 120-seat restaurant in 2012, saying he planned to go back to college to study philosophy.
On Tuesday, a bouquet of roses was left outside the site of the former restaurant with a card that read, “Chef”.
Trotter, who never went to cooking school, wrote more than a dozen cookbooks and starred in a PBS series, The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter. He credited the development of his signature style to his travels in the US and Europe after college and dining at the best restaurants.
He was famous for his reverence for details and he insisted his staff also be sticklers for exactness.
Such laser-like precision and military-style organisation was on display a few days before his restaurant closed in August of last year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a written statement on Tuesday honouring Trotter as someone who “changed Chicago’s restaurant scene forever”.
“Charlie’s personality mirrored his cooking – bold, inventive and always memorable,” Emanuel said. “Charlie Trotter will be remembered for serving the finest food and his generous philanthropy, and he will always have a seat at the table among Chicago’s legendary figures.”