Charlie Trotter's Legacy: Chefs and Alums Reflect

By Kelly Dobkin  |  November 5, 2013

The news of the death of legendary Chicago-based chef Charlie Trotter at 54 rocked the restaurant world when it came down the wire just a few hours ago. Across the Twitterverse, some of the world's top chefs passed on their condolences and reactions:

Jean Georges Vongerichten: via Twitter: "So sad! lost a great friend and an inspiration for the Art of Cooking. Chef Charlie Trotter, condolences to the family."

Daniel Boulud, via Twitter: "Very sad day in the chef community #charlietrotter influence on young American chef was tremendous and inspiring. He will be missed greatly."

Wolfgang Puck, via Twitter: "All of us here are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of culinary great Charlie Trotter."

Marcus Samuelsson, via Twitter: "Unbelievably sad to hear about Charlie Trotter's passing. He was such a mentor and visionary and we lost a good one today."

Trotter, a completely self-taught chef and Chicago native, opened his eponymous restaurant in 1987, which was influential to chefs all around America. In fact, he is widely regarded as the forefather of fine dining. The eatery closed in 2012 but Trotter's legacy is marked both in his own work and the chefs he has trained and inspired along the way. We reached out to a few Charlie Trotter alumni including MasterChef's Graham Elliot, who shared this statement with us: "Charlie Trotter was a mentor in both my professional and personal life since I first met him over fifteen years ago. His dedication to excellence, the city of Chicago and the culinary world at large inspired countless cooks to find their own voice and follow their dreams. He now belongs to the ages."

Another alum, Homaro Cantu (Moto), who wrote about Trotter on his website, remarks on the influence Trotter had when it came to melding cuisines together, and integrating international ingredients at a time when it was considered cutting-edge to do so. "With Charlie, there were no rules. Before him, there were different groups of food and cuisines; he was the first guy to come in and kind of stir it up. It was really food without borders." Cantu also remarked on what he took away from Trotter's influence on the food world at large: "The number one take away is the drive and determination that the guy had. He would never serve the same dish twice. I moved out here just to work for him."

LA-based chef and alum David LeFevre (M.B. Post, Fishing With Dynamite) reacts on Facebook: "Very sad day. My long-time mentor and motivator Chef Charlie Trotter passed this morning. He opened my eyes to an attention to detail, he opened my ears to unreasonable pursuits of excellence, and he opened my heart to loving the world of 'the grand cuisine!' rest in peace."