We asked some of our favorite chefs for their thoughts on Charlie Trotter, the celebrated, innovative Chicago-based chef and restaurateur who died suddenly on Nov. 5.
Ferran Adrià: "Charlie will remain in history as one of the most important chefs of the United States — a person who opened the eyes of Americans to gastronomy."
José Andrés: "Charlie was genuine. He led the way. He pioneered ingredients and techniques before they were known. And he shared his wisdom with all through his books; no one was left behind and left out of his knowledge. America was finally culinarily respected because CT was at the helm. I will miss him. Heaven will be forever be well fed."
Daniel Boulud: "We are all shocked and saddened to lose a friend and such a talented, warm-hearted, and honest man, so young. Throughout his career, Charlie was extremely generous with his time, team, and restaurant to support many charitable causes, and I was fortunate to have joined him on many occasions in his fundraising efforts. His dedication to making America a world-class dining destination was expressed in his restaurants and the cookbooks he published. His creative style of cooking was a departure from the more classic approach to French cuisine. He was a true American chef and restaurateur with a European vision inspiring and educating a whole new generation of chefs. He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten."
Tom Colicchio: "Charlie was uncompromising; his singular goal was to provide an extraordinary experience to every person who walked through the doors at 816 W. Armitage. He achieved his goal, and then some. Charlie's spirit will live on in each of us who were lucky enough to experience his vision for ourselves, and through the impact of his legendary philanthropy."
Wylie Dufresne: "The thing I remember the most about working with Charlie is that he would always throw a curve ball at us. Whether it was about the plating of a dish or some other aspect of service. It wasn't until later in the evening, over unbelievably good wine, that it would dawn on me that he had managed to bring out the best in us without our even knowing."
Dean Fearing: "I have great memories of Charlie Trotter, but this is one of my fondest ones, probably because it touches my Texas barbecue heart. Charlie once came to cook with me for a dinner, and during a lunch break, I took him to one of my favorite local barbecue spots, Sonny Bryan’s. Well, Charlie fell in love with the food there — so much so that on his way to the airport, he stopped at Sonny’s to pick up a whole array of barbecue to take home. He got onto the plane, but once he had sat in his seat and placed the barbecue in the overhead bin, everyone around him started smelling it, and it became clear that he was going to have to share the barbecue with his fellow travelers — which he did. That barbecue never made it home with Charlie."
Paul Kahan: "Charlie introduced myself and a generation of young Chicago chefs to the cuisine of the world's greatest talents. He brought in a steady stream: Ducasse, Blanc, Adrià, Girardet, and many more. The day before a grand dinner, he invited the young chefs in for a lunch, often the same menu as the dinner to follow — an amazing contribution that exposed us all to things we most likely would never have tasted. He made an incredible contribution that I personally will never forget."
Thomas Keller: "Charlie was a visionary who influenced the rapid evolution of restaurants and cuisine in America. We have lost a great chef, mentor, and friend. He will be missed by countless colleagues, friends, and those who delighted in his generosity. My heart goes out to his family."