An autopsy is scheduled today for famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, whose unexpected death at 54 on Tuesday shocked both the city and the food world. Trotter was considered by many to be a pioneer in both food and wine, having single-handedly made Chicago a notable dining city.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Trotter had been recently diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and was instructed by doctors not to fly. A police report stated Trotter was on a plane over the weekend and that no drugs, alcohol or weapons were found at the scene.
Trotter opened his famous restaurant Charlie Trotter's nearly 25 years ago and had earned numerous awards and accolades, including James Beard Foundation awards. Celebrated chefs from around the world mourned his passing.
"Chef Trotter greatly influenced my life both personally and professionally," Hinoki & the Bird's David Myers told The Times' Russ Parsons. Myers' first kitchen job was at Charlie Trotter's. "He was not only a chef and mentor, but a friend. I have incredibly fond memories of working in his kitchen."
"He’s probably the most important guy in my career," L.A. chef David LeFevre (MB Post, Fishing with Dynamite) told Parsons. LeFevre worked with Trotter for 10 years. "I think I can attribute the majority of my attention to detail and the majority of my awareness of what it takes to run a fine dining restaurant to him. He had a very acute sense of attention to detail and he saw things that most people didn’t see. All of us who worked for him are better chefs because we came out of that kitchen."
Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold still remembers the time he ate at Charlie Trotter's 15 years ago. According to Gold, Trotter helped define what it means to be an American chef and saw his vision as reaching far beyond the scope of Chicago.
"The impression was of utter professionalism, and of rigorous control over ingredients, and of an experience that was controlled in every detail," wrote Gold. "What you took away from the meal was precisely what Trotter meant you to take away. I think he may have even anticipated the grilled Polish dog I ended up getting at Weiner Circle on the way home."
Trotter was also a legend among the world's sommeliers, having compiled an impressive collection of wine. "The Magnificent Cellar of Charlie Trotter's" sold for just shy of $1 million during a Christie's auction last December.
Chefs and food personalities took to Twitter to express their shock at losing the culinary icon.
Anthony Bourdain wrote: "Rest In Peace Charlie Trotter. A giant. A legend. Treated shabbily by a world he helped create. My thoughts go out to those who loved him."
Daniel Boulud wrote: “Very sad day in the chef community #charlietrotter influence on young American chef was tremendous and inspiring. He will be missed greatly.”
The French Laundry restaurant account posted: “Sad day... We lost a great chef. Thoughts & prayers to Chef Trotter's family & friends. #Legend #Pioneer #RIP”
Trotter had recently announced the closure of Charlie Trotter's and his plans to travel.
Charlie Trotter's family issued a statement Tuesday evening asking for privacy "as we work through this difficult time."
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