Charlie Trotter discusses the initial success of his eponymous restaurant and his work style
During the third chapter of At the Chef’s Table with Charlie Trotter, The Daily Meal’s video producer, Ali Rosen, talks with the chef about the evolution of his restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.
As soon as Charlie Trotter's opened, the restaurant began receiving acclaim from critics and the general public. With regards to how the seemingly "overnight" success affected Trotter personally, he explains, "I guess I was oblivious, I never dreamed of anything like that, I mean we were just trying to do the best we could do and change the menu often and use the most pristine products we could get our hands on, and one thing just led to the next and the next." In addition, the emphasis from the get-go on having an outstanding wine list also brought in a base of customers who were as interested in the wine as the food.
With regards to his reputation, both in and out of the kitchen, Trotter has been characterized as being everything from a perfectionist to a tyrant. When asked how this has affected him, he responds with, "I will do what I have to do — I don’t set out to be a 'tyrant.' Certainly, in the earlier days, I was very intense because I wanted to make a point that this is how you have to work, this isn’t just, 'OK we have great food product, we’re nice people, we have good technique,' you really have to elevate it." He explains further, "I Don’t regard myself as a perfectionist, I’ve coined a term and I think I’m more of an 'excellanceist,' meaning that I’m comfortable with quirkiness, I’m comfortable with deviation… it’s more interesting to drive for something, even phonetically, but if it’s not what was intended I think that’s OK, that’s what brings the human element into it."
Trotter believes that perhaps his reputation has helped to attract only the best and brightest to apply for jobs in his kitchen. He notes, "My job is very simple. It’s to create an environment and culture of self-fulfilling leadership."
Stay tuned for more from chef Charlie Trotter in the fourth installment of At the Chef’s Table