Chicago Pays Tribute to Famed Chef Charlie Trotter
Acclaimed chef Charlie Trotter was remembered Monday for turning Chicago into an international culinary destination, mentoring countless aspiring chefs and even inviting the homeless into his restaurant’s kitchen to sit and eat at one of the most famous tables in the world.
Approximately 1,000 people, including renowned chefs from around the United States, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a few dozen former employees wearing white chefs’ coats in Trotter’s honor turned out.
Trotter died last week at the age of 54. Pathologists have ruled out foul play or trauma. Trotter had a history of medical problems, including an aneurysm and high blood pressure and had suffered seizures, but the exact cause of death is pending the results of various tests and aren’t likely to be completed for several weeks.
Memorial attendees listened to speakers tell of Trotter’s career - from the way he traveled around the world to work in restaurants to learn what he needed to open Charlie Trotter’s’ in the 1980s, to the years he spent helping those get the kind of formal culinary education he did not have himself.
"If you (want to) see his monument, look around you," said the Rev. Sara Sarchet Butter to the packed Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. "You are his memorial, you who he trained, mentored and inspired."
A host of culinary luminaries were in the audience, some who once worked for Trotter, including Graham Elliot. They crowded into the pews with well-known chefs including Emeril Lagasse, Rick Tramonto and Rick Bayless.
After the service, attendee Doretha Sandridge said Trotter spoke to her son’s high school class, invited him to his restaurant and ultimately hired him.
"Now my son is attending a culinary school," she said.