VIDEO: Charlie Trotter Sits Down at The Chef’s Table Part 2
The chef and restaurateur discusses his first sojourn to France and opening his eponymous restaurant
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In the second installment of this At The Chef's Table series, The Daily Meal's video producer, Ali Rosen, sat down with legendary Chicago chef Charlie Trotter to discuss a particularly unique trip to France and the opening of Charlie Trotter's.
After graduating from college and deciding to pursue a career in food, Trotter began working at a restaurant in Lake Forest, Ill., and then left to see if the chefs at Chez Panisse would allow him to work in the kitchen for free — when they declined his offer, Trotter enrolled in the California Culinary Academy. After about six weeks of school, Trotter decided to drop out and take a three-month trip to France. "Well, it was really the first time I'd had a culinary odyssey like that, where I visited everything from the marketplaces to the bistros, brasseries, and then of course, the grand restaurants," he says. "And a few of the grand restaurants inspired me to the point that I really wanted to model what I was ultimately thinking of doing after one or two of those... it was the first time I'd had an experience where the cuisine, the ambiance, the wine service, and the service in general all added up to something greater than the sum of the parts, and it occurred to me that this is exactly what I want to try to do."
When Trotter returned to Chicago, determined to open his own place, the first step was finding the location. "It's a single-family town home built in 1908 and I really wanted it to have more of a residential feel," he says. "It took about six months to design it and six months to build it out." And with regards to the concept, Trotter recalls the unique and organic way it came about: "I knew the process was going to take this period of time of working with the architects and designers and the construction people, but I was so involved with every aspect that I couldn't really work at a restaurant, so what I decided to do was start to cook dinner in people's homes, and one led to the next and the next, so through the course of that year I probably served 80 dinners in people's homes. So the thing that happened was that the day we opened there was a small groundswell of people that were our immediate client base."
Stay tuned for more in-depth interviews with chef Charlie Trotter in the upcoming installments of At the Chef's Table.