VIDEO: Charlie Trotter Sits Down at The Chef's Table Part 4
In the last part of our interview we discuss Chef Trotter's philanthropy, impact and what's next
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During the fourth installment of At the Chef's Table with Charlie Trotter, The Daily Meal's video producer, Ali Rosen, talks with the chef about his humanitarian efforts and what's on the horizon for him following the closing of his iconic restaurant, Charlie Trotter's.
Trotter is known throughout Chicago and beyond for his work as a humanitarian, specifically with his "Chef for a Day" and "Excellence Program," which are aimed at getting students into a professional kitchen. "Growing up it was always instilled that for those who have opportunities in life it's important to make a difference," he says, "It's not about recruiting young men and women, it's about showing them that in life you get what you give; if you want a lot you have to give a lot, and every job is a great job. It is an etiquette lesson, but that happens inadvertently; it's a dining experience — they're eating more or less the same menu that's being served in the restaurant that night, and they each have to ask two questions."
With regards to the quickly approaching closing of Charlie Trotter's in August and his reasons for taking this leap, the chef says, "I look at it like this... there's absolutely no down side, so let's say they flunk me out after two months, I can always go back to the restaurant business because I know how to do it. So the up side is I have a chance to take roughly a three-year hiatus and read some of the great books that are unread, still sitting by my bed and see if I can still cut it with extremely intelligent 26 and 27 year olds." When asked why he decided on going back to school, he explains, "I've always considered myself a student, and I guess I want to do it in a more regimented way."
During his semi-retirement, Trotter plans to publish the cookbook he's currently writing (which he plans to release in the spring) and aims to continue his involvement in the industry. "Oh, I'm definitely going to keep my feet wet, I'll still monitor things and read things and everything else," he says.
A surprising number of professional chefs and tastemakers in the country, and specifically in Chicago, have previously worked at Charlie Trotter's. The chef jokes, "I think they passed a law a couple of years ago that you're not allowed to open your own restaurant unless you've worked at Charlie Trotter's."