I saw the news of Charlie Trotter’s passing on Twitter. My first thought (which I tweeted, or actually retweeted), was “OMG. So sad.” and linked to the article. I was shocked. And kind of numb. And since I was also not feeling very well, it was the best that I could verbalize at the moment.
“I am so saddened by the news of Charlie Trotter’s passing. He was the most influential chef in my career. I worked at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago in ’97-98. I had just finished cooking school, and was planning to go to Europe to travel/cook, when I saw that he was hiring servers. Since I had more experience in front-of-the-house then back, and I had his gorgeous, inspiring cookbook, I applied. I was hired as a server (a salaried position), and still to this day, I think it was the hardest job I ever had. I’ll never forget trying to explain all of the tiny amuse courses we set before the kitchen table guests as Charlie listened in to make sure I got it right. Yes, it was stressful working for someone who was such a perfectionist, and intense, but it was invaluable experience. Since I wanted to be in the kitchen, Charlie let me help prep one day a week pre-shift. I learned so much…it was like culinary grad school, and I was surrounded by the most talented team, including Matthias Merges, Michelle Gayer,David LeFevre, Brian Cronin, Belinda Chang, Joseph Spellman. In time, I realized working in restaurants wasn’t for me, but it certainly led me towards my career as a restaurant publicist. And years later when I saw Charlie again (and then again), he always remembered me and what I was doing, and asked how I was. He was truly an inspiration and pioneer who was not afraid to think out-of-the-box. I will always value my experience working for him and knowing him. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. Charlie, you will be deeply missed.