Charlie Trotter’s Legacy

1959 – 2013

Much has been made over the past year, regarding the restaurant’s final auction, the high school art show, etc., but I think one of Charlie Trotter’s greatest legacies – at least in terms of his contribution to Chicago’s culinary scene – is all of the great talent he molded, scolded, shaped, sharpened and ultimately sent off into the world. Many of his former employees stayed right here in Chicago, realizing that due to their former boss, the city had suddenly become more welcoming and willing to embrace new talent. You have to remember, Trotter was self-taught. After graduating from UW – Madison (Go Badgers) he traveled around the world, ate in the best restaurants for inspiration, then came home, and after a brief stint working for Gordon Sinclair on the North Shore, opened his eponymous restaurant with help from his father in 1987 – seven years before anyone was talking about the Food Network. He was the first to establish the Chef’s Table, put a premium on wine service (with a vast cellar to boot) and pushed his staff to be the best; that meant better than anything in New York City. I remember covering a dinner at the restaurant when Alain Ducasse was in town, and you would have thought the brigade was cooking for Francois Mitterand. Ducasse didn’t lift a finger the entire night (well, just to apply some gold leaf to the dessert). Everyone else was working so methodically, with such purpose, and yet there was this gentle buzz without anyone screaming. Trotter would “shush” the kitchen if it got too loud.


I know Trotter was involved in many charitable endeavors, often hosting inner city kids for lunch, but I thought it only appropriate to share his legacy; essentially a Who’s Who/All Star list of chefs and restaurants that have blossomed in his wake. Cheers, Chef.



Yusho, A10 (Matthias Merges)

Alinea, Next (Grant Achatz)

Moto (Homaro Cantu)

Urban Belly, Belly Shack, Belly Q (Bill Kim)

Boka, GT Fish & Oyster (Giuseppe Tentori)

2 Sparrows (Gregory Ellis and Steven Fladung)

Inovasi (John des Rosiers)

Grace (Curtis Duffy)

Hot Chocolate (Mindy Segal)

Zealous (Michael Taus)

InterUrban Bakery (Christine McCabe)

Graham Elliot (Graham Elliot)



June (Josh Adams)



Salty Tart (Michelle Geyer)



D Bar Desserts (Keegan Gerhard)

also D Bar Restaurant, San Diego


Los Angeles:

Spago (Della Gossett, pastry)


Manhattan Beach, CA:

M.B. Post (David LeFevre)


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