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RIP Charlie Trotter

by Hoke » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:18 pm

Great chef, dead at 54 in Chicago.

Went there several times. Had some amazing creations. Some bizarre ones, too. But Charlie pushed hard on the envelope and more often than not achieved some incredible taste sensations.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Jenise » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:21 pm

NO. Dear god, what happened?
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Jenise » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:34 pm

Okay, the answer to my question is no one knows exactly, but circumstantially it might be suicide. " His unresponsive body was removed from his home at 10:45 a.m. and he never recovered".

He's been having some issues since he closed his restaurant.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-31/features/chi-charlie-trotter-meltdown-20130829_1_charlie-trotter-student-artwork-school-matters
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Mark Lipton » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:15 pm

I just saw this news. Terribly sad, whatever the details. I went there for my 40th birthday and had a great meal, though not ultimately among the finest of my life. What I most remember is the amuse bouche: a cube of olive oil-poached salmon atop a pea shoot purée that was magnificently textured and delicious to boot.

RIP
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Jenise » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:39 pm

It IS sad. Various reports I've read this morning suggest that he had a hard time coping with having to share the pedestal when other new, younger Chicago chefs started making a name for themselves, though that is the nature of the business.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Sam Platt » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:52 pm

This is very sad news. We ate at Trotter's most recently with some friends in July of last year. The food and service were always first rate and the dining experience was certainly in my top five. I think that he reached his creative peak 10+ years ago and had fallen behind other restaurants nationally and even in Chicago (Schwa, Alinea, etc).

We had the chance to meet Charlie on our last visit. He was very nice to us during the brief encounter, but he did seem melancholy and distant. I did not detect the aura of satisfaction and contentment that I would have expected from someone who had accomplished so much. I do hope his death was from natural causes.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Jenise » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:07 pm

Sam Platt wrote:This is very sad news. We ate at Trotter's most recently with some friends in July of last year. The food and service were always first rate and the dining experience was certainly in my top five. I think that he reached his creative peak 10+ years ago and had fallen behind other restaurants nationally and even in Chicago (Schwa, Alinea, etc).

We had the chance to meet Charlie on our last visit. He was very nice to us during the brief encounter, but he did seem melancholy and distant. I did not detect the aura of satisfaction and contentment that I would have expected from someone who had accomplished so much. I do hope his death was from natural causes.


If natural causes, then likely his heart. He wasn't ill--I saw an instagram type photo of him on Sunday, Nov 3, at a culinary conference in Jackson Hole Wyoming.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by wnissen » Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:01 pm

I never ate there, but lots of folks surely give him credit for elevating the level of cuisine in this country. Hard to imagine Alinea opening without Trotter's paving the way.

It did seem like there was more than just bad luck going on at the end of his life. That thing with the art students and his follow-on comments was straight out of reality TV. Then, he and the sommelier sold a magnum of 1945 Domaine de la Romanee Conti for $46K that was subsequently repudiated by none other than the Domaine's owner, Aubert de Villaine. Ended up in a big ongoing lawsuit.

Sad that he died relatively young and under difficult circumstances.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Hoke » Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:12 pm

Went several times when CT was in its heyday, partly because we had a friend who was a friend of his and we got easy rezzes extra good treatment while there.

Same friend later said that Charlie was getting a rep for being harder and harder to deal with, and was showing a lot more frustration and anger..also that he was putting on weight and looking puffy and edematic, which could have signaled a potential health problem. Or not. In any case, for the last few years, for whatever reasons, he clearly wasn't enjoying life very much, as exhibited by his behavior and attitude.

He was bold and confident when he started, and definitely changed the level of cuisine in the country (and most definitvely in the Chicago area, which had limited appeal prior to his restaurant.

I remember going there with some Chicagoans of the goombah persuasion, and immediately after leaving the 14 dish degustation menu they wanted to stop at Joey Buona's for an Italian Beef, 'submarine style'. :D The Chicago idea of the perfect restaurant in those days wasn't a series of exquisite flavor experiences, it was based on how large the servings were and how stuffed you felt when you left.

Charlie changed that.
Last edited by Hoke on Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Mark Hargrove » Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:43 pm

Hoke wrote:He was bold and confident when he started, and definitely changed the level of cuisine in the country (and most definitvely in the Chicago area, which had limited appeal prior to his restaurant.

With such limited appeal, it really makes you wonder why so many people flew into Chicago in the '70s and '80s just to dine at Le Francais, doesn't it? :roll:

Hoke wrote:I remember going there with some Chicagoans of the goombah persuasion, and immediately after leaving the 14 dish degustation menu they wanted to stop at Joey Buona's for an Italian Beef, 'submarine style'. :D The Chicago idea of the perfect restaurant in those days wasn't a series of exquisite flavor experiences, it was based on how large the servings were and how stuffed you felt when you left.

Over the past two decades you have made many similar comments as the above two about Chicago. What happened to you while you were there to cause the growth of such an enormous chip on your shoulder?

Back to the topic at hand. Friends noticed a dramatic change in Trotter after the decision was made to close his eponymous restaurant. He began to push away people at the very time he most needed their support. I truly hope it does not turn out that way, but I would not be surprised if his death was ruled a suicide.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:42 pm

Hoke wrote:Same friend later said that Charlie was getting a rep for being harder and harder to deal with, and was showing a lot more frustration and anger..also that he was putting on weight and looking puffy and edematic, which could have signaled a potential health problem. Or not.

Classic signs of depression. Maybe adult-onset bipolar disorder?

In any case, his name is legend.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Hoke » Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:26 am

Over the past two decades you have made many similar comments as the above two about Chicago. What happened to you while you were there to cause the growth of such an enormous chip on your shoulder?


No chip on my shoulder about Chicago, Mark. Puzzled at you saying that, but apparently I've given you that impression through my comments. Unfortunate. I love visiting Chicago; always have, going back 30 years or so. Love dining there too, although it's a whole lot more diversified now than it was back then. (And Charlie was responsible...not solely responsible, but in large part...for that change.)

The goombah story, by the way, was quite real, and not at all unusual for the day. And hey, nothing wrong with an Italian Beef sangwidge, although I prefer mine dry instead of full dunk.

Le Francais was an exceptionally good restaurant (and yes, I and some other people flew in specifically to go to Le Francais one winter, along with visits to Le Perroquet---did you forget that one?---and Ciel Bleu, now defunct.) But Le Francais wasn't as good when Banchet left, and was a pale shadow of what it had been. It faded, sadly, before the Millenium, and finally limped to a sad closing. Point is, there was a scattering of good restaurants beyond the steakhouses, and a couple of French/Continental, but not a preponderance. And there sure wasn't the absolute explosion of daring, adventurous presentation of food and abundance of stylistic expression---Chicago was then a sturdy, dependable provider of good food, but not the superstar culinary town of today. Alinea, Blackbird, Avec...
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by David M. Bueker » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:40 am

Some reports are saying that he had an inoperable aneurysm, and should not have been flying (i.e. from Chicago to Jackson Hole, WY).
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Sam Platt » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:50 am

Hoke wrote:And there sure wasn't the absolute explosion of daring, adventurous presentation of food and abundance of stylistic expression---Chicago was then a sturdy, dependable provider of good food, but not the superstar culinary town of today. Alinea, Blackbird, Avec...

Not to hijack the thread, but I would put Schwa at the front of the list of Chicago's best restaurants at present. The tasting menu is creative, brilliantly executed, delicious and sometimes challenging. Definitely the best fine dining "food" I've had in a long, long time. Schwa was recommended to us by Alan Gardener.

Ambiance and service at Schwa are a different matter and decidely NOT four star. Decor is sort of minimalist-industrial. Acoustics are poor and the restaurant is quite loud. The wait staff is relaxed and not terribly attentive though quite friendly and helpful. The chefs serve the food which is very different.

The other problem is getting a reservation at Schwa. It is quite small. We tried on our own for sometime without success. Finally we asked around and found somebody who knew somebody who could get us in there. Definitely worth the effort.

PS: Corkage was either free or dirt cheap.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:35 am

The scuttlebut that I heard is that Schwa is run by chefs for chefs. Hence, no interest in the decor, no interest in appropriate music for a dining experience, etc.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Sam Platt » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:59 am

That would make sense, Jeff. The person who was able to get a reservation at Schwa for us is a chef in Chicago (Spiaggia) and there was chef from Dallas seated at the table next to us. He said that he had no problem getting a reservation.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Mark Lipton » Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:50 pm

Schwa takes particular delight in dicking people around when attempting to make reservations, or so I've heard. Sam, have you eaten at L20? It also vies for the mantle of Best in Chicago. And I still want to try Next if I can ever get a ticket or two...

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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Sam Platt » Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:27 pm

Not yet Mark, but both restaurants are on our list. We are very interested in Next since the kitchen is run by the chef who started Alinea. My only concern with L20 is that the first comment made by the two people I have spoken to who have been there is that the price is very high. They did both very much enjoy their meal, but when experienced fine diners first discription of a place is "it's VERY expensive" that tends to be a red flag for me - particularly when one of them flew to Paris just to eat at L'Astrance and claimed it was a bargain.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Jenise » Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:28 pm

Re the aneurysm, from this morning's Chicago paper:

Family friends said doctors had recommended that Trotter not fly to Wyoming. Larry Stone, Trotter's longtime sommelier and friend, said the chef told him about a brain aneurysm, and had been told by doctors that he should not be flying, should not be at high altitudes and should not exert himself because of the resulting pressure on his brain.

“It was a time bomb, and he felt that he didn't have a lot of time left,” said Stone, who now works with the Quintessa winery in Napa Valley. “It was inoperable, and it was not something that could be repaired; it was deep inside the brain. ... It was obvious he had problems and he had some seizures. It's a condition that had worsened in the last few years but it was something he had for quite a while.”


Yikes. Now THERE'S a reason to be depressed.

Coincidentally, at the event in Wyoming, someone asked him what his favorite recipe was, a question he "dodged." So the questioner came back with a question about Charlie's choice of a last meal. His answer? "A 1900 Chateau Margaux."
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Mark Lipton » Wed Nov 06, 2013 4:12 pm

Thanks for the update, Jenise. So it is "just" an unfortunate death, brought on by an ongoing medical condition. Knowing this doesn't make his death any less sad for me, but I hope that it will give some measure of relief to those people who were close to him.

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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Sam Platt » Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:09 pm

From the Chicago Tribune:

"Test results after an autopsy determined that Trotter "died of a cerebrovascular accident (a stroke) as a consequence of hypertensive arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure)," Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said in a statement."

I am at least glad to learn that he died of natural causes. The article also goes on to mention that recent travel was not a contributor.
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Robin Garr » Mon Nov 25, 2013 7:49 pm

Sam Platt wrote: a consequence of hypertensive arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure)

That's particularly sad in the 2100s, when this is so easily controllable for most people. :(
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Tom NJ » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:23 am

Robin Garr wrote:That's particularly sad in the 2100s, when this is so easily controllable for most people. :(


Yeah. Not like the bad ol' days of the 2000's.

:wink:
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Re: RIP Charlie Trotter

by Robin Garr » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:14 pm

Tom NJ wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:That's particularly sad in the 2100s, when this is so easily controllable for most people. :(


Yeah. Not like the bad ol' days of the 2000's.

:wink:

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