Culinary world's reactions to Charlie Trotter's death
Reaction to the death of famed Chicago chef Charlie Trotter.
Chef Anthony Bourdain, on Trotter's famous temper and willfulness:
"A lot of the very things that made Charlie a great chef and allowed him to operate at the level of excellence he did for so many years, also made him a lot of enemies. That served him well on the way up, but it didn't after."
Chef Christopher Kearse of Will BYOB on East Passyunk Avenue:
"I would say there are three men in my life for who made me the person I am today - one of them being Charlie. He changed this 20-year-old kid from Philly's view on food, dining, philosophy and how to live life and forever I'm grateful."
Chef Robert A. Lhulier, executive chef, University and Whist Club of Wilmington:
"In September of 2000, I was finishing up my second year as chef de cuisine of the newly opened Deep Blue Bar and Grille in Wilmington.
"I was having a case of the culinary school graduate blues, I suppose. I had always admired Chef Trotter and his ability to attain such high standards year after year. I wrote him an email, never expecting a reply, but within a few hours, I received a return email from his personal assistant, who replied for him, “Chef, don’t try to compare with or compete against others, only yourself. One day, you will look in the rear-view mirror and discover there isn’t anyone there.” He went on to invite me to spend a week of cooking in his kitchen as a guest.
"It was a week I shall never forget. His intense nature made me excel to a level I never knew I could achieve. In a remarkable gesture, on my final night of cooking, the maitre d’ came into the kitchen, asked me to remove my apron and told me to follow him. He took me on a complete tour of the restaurant (which I hadn’t had up until that point) which ended in the upper dining room and a seat for one.
"A multi-course meal with matching wines unfolded over the next three hours as I was mesmerized by the impeccable service, depth of flavors and combinations I had been cooking and watched prepared all week. On that particular evening, he had left the restaurant early to pick up (personally) his friend Chef Tetsuya Wakuda. When he arrived at the restaurant, Chef Trotter had the entire staff, front and back with toques and aprons lined up in military fashion in front of the restaurant to greet Chef Wakuda. He had only done this once before, for the arrival of Chef Paul Bocuse.
"When I finished my meal and went into the kitchen to thank him for my meal and life-changing week, he was chatting with Chef Tetsuya. I was effusive and a little tipsy. He immediately deflected my praise to point out that I was standing in the presence of Chef Wakuda.
"Upon leaving, three of my cookbooks had been signed, and the ones I didn’t have were gifted to me, each signed by chef Trotter. In the book, “Charlie Trotter, Lessons in Excellence”, we wrote, “Robert- Never Forget Your Dream!” It was that simple quote that he had probably scribbled hundreds of times that I used as inspiration to open my own restaurant, The Chef’s Table at the David Finney Inn, in 2005.
"I have many pictures of my visit, the kitchen, the staff, the food- but none of me with Chef Trotter. In my enthusiasm and joy, I had neglected to ask chef to pose for a picture. But, I didn’t need it.
Chicago chef Rick Bayless:
"When he closed Trotter's, I knew that we would hear something more from him and I had hoped that we would have the chance to see the next chapter in his life. It's a really super sad moment to recognize the fact that that's not going to happen."
Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation:
"Clearly he was very well read, a philosopher chef. He was somebody who valued learning. ... He was probably somebody who was never quite satisfied and that may be why he was considered one of the perfectionist tyrants of the kitchen."
Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine:
"His restaurant shaped the world of food. He was so innovative and focused and intense and really brilliant."