Friends and former colleagues from across the food and wine world have been paying tribute to Charlie Trotter, one of the most revered chefs in the US, who died suddenly this week.
Charlie Trotter died earlier today (5 November) at the age of 54. Local news reports said he was discovered unconscious at his home in Chicago at 10am.
His death quickly sent shockwaves through the food and wine world, as friends, ex-diners and former colleagues rushed to pay their respects to a chef credited with pioneering tasting menus and turning his namesake restaurant into one of the best in the US, and in the world.
The comprehensive wine list at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, which closed after 25 years in 2012, was a key part of the restaurant’s success, and the venue won the James Beard Foundation award for outstanding wine service.
‘Charlie Trotter was a mentor in both my professional and personal life since I first met him over 15 years ago,’ said chef Graham Elliott, owner of the two Michelin-starred eponymous restaurant in Chicago.
‘His dedication to excellence, the city of Chicago and the culinary world at large inspired countless cooks to find their own voice.’
Trotter opened his restaurant in 1987, still in his twenties and largely an unknown entity in culinary circles, after becoming fascinated by cooking and food while studying political science at university. His first cooking job was at Sinclair’s in Chicago’s North Shore area.
A quarter of a century later, he had amassed thousands of bottles of wine at the restaurant, as well as more at home. In a 2012 interview with the New York Times, he quipped that there was enough to drink one bottle per day until he reached the average life expectancy for an American male – 78.9.
Before closing its doors, Trotter’s said its wine collection included 20 vintages of Penfolds Grange dating back to 1960, a vertical of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild from 1945 to 2003 and 48 selections of renowned Piedmont producer Angelo Gaja.
On Twitter, where many began leaving tributes upon hearing of Trotter’s death, one Chicago-based sommelier who blogs anonymously under the name Windy City Epicurean called Trotter’s restaurant wine programme ‘incredible.’
‘Being around his passion for wine has put me where I am now’.
Written by Chris Mercer