Chef Charlie Trotter dead at 54
November 5th, 2013
02:00 PM ET
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Celebrity chef Charlie Trotter died shortly after he was rushed from his Chicago home to a hospital Tuesday morning, CNN affiliate WGN-TV reported.

Trotter - whose namesake restaurant in Lincoln Park received a long list of culinary honors over its 25 years of service - was 54.

There were no details immediately released about the cause of death, which happened at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Frank Shuftan, Public Information Officer for the Cook County Bureau of Administration confirmed the death to CNN. An autopsy conducted Wednesday was deemed inconclusive as to cause of death.

Police expected to stage a death investigation at Trotter's home. Trotter leaves behind his wife, Rochelle, and their son, Dylan.

Photos: Notable deaths of 2013

His wife released a statement early Tuesday evening saying, “We are incredibly shocked and deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of Charlie at our home in Lincoln Park. He was much loved and words can not describe how much he will be missed. Charlie was a trailblazer and introduced people to a new way of dining when he opened Charlie Trotter’s. His impact upon American cuisine and the culinary world at large will always be remembered. We thank you so much for your kind words, love and support. We appreciate the respect for our privacy as we work through this difficult time.”

Trotter closed his flagship restaurant in 2012, saying he wanted to go back to school and possibly pursue a Master of Philosophy degree. He received a "Humanitarian of the Year" award from the James Beard Foundation that same year. The JBF had previously proclaimed Trotter the Best Chef, Midwest in 1992, the Nation's Outstanding Chef award in 1999 and Charlie Trotter's as the Nation's Outstanding Restaurant in 2000, among other awards.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement saying that Trotter: "changed Chicago's restaurant scene forever and played a leading role in elevating the city to the culinary capital it is today. Charlie's personality mirrored his cooking - bold, inventive and always memorable. Charlie Trotter will be remembered for serving the finest food and his generous philanthropy, and he will always have a seat at the table among Chicago's legendary figures.”

An outpouring of condolences and remembrances from the food community quickly followed the news of his passing.

Chef Eric Ripert told CNN, "I was very saddened by the news. Charlie was a tremendously gifted chef and one of the pioneers of American celebrity chefs. He was very noble and a true gentleman. I always had great respect for Charlie and my thoughts are with his family. His legacy as a star and true hero of modern American cuisine will live on."

Wine educator Belinda Chang, who worked at various positions at Charlie Trotter's from 1997 to 2002, said the community was stunned. "My phone has been blowing up all day," she said. There is such an amazing network of alumni of the restaurant around the world. My former co-workers and I are all shocked."

Chang added, "The other incredible thing is that I have been getting texts and e-mails from former regulars of the restaurant as well - people I haven't seen since I worked the floor. Charlie Trotter touched so many."

John Winterman, maitre d' at Daniel restaurant, spent some formative years in the chef's sphere. He worked for Trotter from 1994 to 2001 in various roles including dining room manager and told CNN: "Of all the shadows to fall upon the landscape of modern American gastronomy, his was the longest. I learned so much from the man."

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Please share your memories of Charlie Trotter in the comments below.

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Filed under: Affiliate • Celebrity Chefs • News

soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Bunch of internet tough guys typing from momma's basement around here that can barely see the letters on their keyboard from all the Cheetoh dust and semen they spilled on it.

    November 7, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  2. Shelley

    You were my Hero Charlie !! You set the pace in the world of chef owned restaurants. Ill never forgot the hospitality you showed to my Mom & I. Rest in Peace !!

    November 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  3. Ctrygrl

    I ate at the restaurant in Chicago once when I visited, it was amazing and truly memorable. He was a gifted chef.

    November 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  4. Muffy

    Doesn't anyone monitor these comments?? There were a couple of vile comments and many very nasty ones about a man who just passed. That shows you what kind of monsters we have living in this country. I suggest you remove those horrid comments.

    November 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Sleddawg63

      "monsters" is a great way to put it. 97 pound mental weaklings that wouldn't have the guts to say something to your face act like big boys when hiding behind a computer screen.

      November 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  5. tuffyturf

    Sorry, I thought he took me seriously when I told him I knew nothing about picking wild mushrooms..

    November 6, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • RichardHead

      So did Timothy Leary…..and your still alive. Is this a Good thing ?

      November 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  6. nc1965

    Seems like he was a nice guy but all the artery choking food got the best of him.

    November 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Autopsy was inconclusive and the tests won't be in for several weeks. Unless you are his personal physician, perhaps consider refraining from speculation out of respect to the people who are mourning him.

      November 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  7. Renee Nicole Stage

    Let's celebrate a man who knowingly broke federal law regarding overtime pay, who physically abused his kitchen staff in the name of organizational culture (when is it ever OK to grab your employee by the neck and throw them against the wall), locked inner city school kids out of his restaurant refusing to give back their personal belongings.

    November 6, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Logical1125

      If he made those mistakes, then that's very disappointing. But he was revered so that's what to celebrate. You ever go to a family members funeral that you actually care about and start listing off their crimes against humanity?

      November 6, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • Renee Nicole Stage

        If they were a-holes to humanity? Yes.

        November 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Oscar Pitchfork

      All chefs behave that way. It's like they're queer or something if they don't...

      November 6, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  8. dkc2001

    Chef Ramsey said his scampi had so much garlic, HBO cancelled "True Blood".

    November 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Logical1125


      November 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
      • RC

        Yeah-I wouldn't put any stock in anything "Chef" Ramsazz had to say anyway. The guy's a tool.

        November 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
        • tuffyturf

          Thats RAW!

          November 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  9. robert

    This is good news, another animal killer down the tubes!

    November 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Jeff

      "Great news" that a father and husband is dead. Perhaps you should consider the definitions of such words as "humane" and "ethical" before you start espousing them to represent your world view. Your statement shows that you have more respect for animals than you do for yourself or your fellow man. Will you be saying – or did you say – such things when your "animal killing" parents, grandparents, siblings, children or grandchildren pass or passed? How would those people feel, if they are still alive, if you stood before them and said that you hoped that they did, in fact, die because of their insistence on being the omnivores into which evolution made them? You may think that you have a heart because you refuse to eat animal flesh, but in doing so you have lost your soul. And your mind.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
      • Logical1125

        Couldn't agree with you more. I would have lambasted that mental case myself but I was too busy wolfing down a rib-eye.

        November 6, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
      • glauber


        November 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • guest

      Your happy that a human is dead but you are upset that animals are killed? Doesn't that make you a hypocrite? You are no better than an "animal killer." RIP Charlie Trotter.

      November 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
    • Logical1125

      Don't feed the trolls! Lol pun intended.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Elle

      Well, I am not sure that he did much of the slaughtering himself, more so just prepared the remains. So, technically, he was into recycling, not killing.

      What, you got an issue with recycling? The global warming, man!

      November 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  10. Dish of choice

    Are food bloggers doing anything in his honor, like the peanut butter pie a couple of years ago?

    November 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • RichardHead@DOC

      Thank You…….A very good question to bring everyone back to Reality. It is much appreciated.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Here's the thing - I can't swear that food bloggers will necessarily know who he is. He was sort of a chef's chef and influenced so very much on the restaurant level (which trickled down), but never went out of his way to seek the spotlight in the way that some other chefs did. There was a great piece in the New York Time not long ago about his legacy, and how he'd been sort of left behind.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
      • RichardHead@Kat

        C'Mon Kitten-This Young Man lead the way for today's T.V Chefs…Why was Food Network created….How did Emeril become famous? Jeez…..It's like your saying Julia Child dropped a chicken or something….He worked his mind off in trying to find Simplicity in food. I must say…He succeeded.

        November 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
        • Kat Kinsman

          It's a very worthy question that I actually took to Twitter. This is one of the key things around Charlie Trotter - wondering why such an influential and vaunted chef got left behind, and why some who may or may not be as worthy, achieve fame beyond their profession. It's definitely something I'm trying to figure out. Not glossing over - diving deeper.

          November 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
        • RichardHead

          Thank You,tho I doubt Twitter can give you the feelings of the Heart while creating a dinner that you would always remember. It's like a small town man preparing a Brisket for judging,no fancy spices,no sauces, just a hunk of meat that is moist,crusted perfectly,with a smoke ring that is not artificial ( which I Thank You for 'cuz I never knew that ),and is Finally recognized for a Lifetime of Great Food. That's why you create this Blog everyday…The Common Man.

          November 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
        • Kat Kinsman

          I just mean I asked on Twitter to see if there is indeed awareness and effort in that community. If so, I'd be delighted.

          November 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
        • RichardHead

          This is why you are our Fearless Leader…Common Sense. Something lacking in today's topsy turvey world….and I Thank You.

          November 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  11. Bob

    I don't get wanting to work in a profession where everything you make is immediately destroyed and turns into sh1t. Oh well. Condolences to his family anyway.

    November 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Truth™

      You must be a blast at parties...

      November 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • RichardHead@Bobbing for Balls

      Go back to MSNBC….Rachel Maddow wants to lick you clean……AzzHat.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Debbie Downer

      Wah wah.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Logical1125

      So what would be your alternative? Train monkeys to cook our food since no human should waste time creating anything that's going to be "destroyed" or as sane people call it, eating.

      November 6, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  12. dkc2001

    The Swedish Chef was quoted as saying "Bork. Bork ba bork bork bork."

    November 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  13. keith

    Umm he cooked food people !!! Didn't invent a heart valve.. I poop food can you run a story about that CNN ???

    November 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Dr.Phil

      I have a Sh**it sandwich with your name on it. Here's some extra napkins,I had Mexican Food for lunch.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Howman

      Yes, he cooked. Steve Jobs could type. The problem is that you can't read, Keith. Or is it that you just like to troll on other peoples obits. Have some respect! What have you got?

      November 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Captain Obvious

      Well it is... a FOOD blog.

      November 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  14. RichardHead

    Some of You,Don't seem to realize that Chef Charlie Trotter was a Teacher,a Mentor,a True Thinker of How Food can be used and prepared to Introduce young people,Newly Weds and the standard Home Cook on the Unlimited Tastes that are available to Everyone. I remember watching him weekly on PBS…..The way he moved around the kitchen,his explanations of each Food item he was preparing, and The Respect that he showed the Food. He was Way ahead of his time in the Cooking Culture and will be Truly Missed. RIP Chef….You taught me so much.

    November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • scotty501

      Why are you capitalizing the first letter of random words in a sentence like it's a title? Are you six?

      November 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
      • AleeD®@501

        You misspelled your moniker. It's spelled S.N.O.T.T.Y. You're welcome.

        November 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • RichardHead

        I Like to show RESPECT,something your Momma NEVER taught you.

        November 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
        • Dude Dude

          Too bad your Momma couldn't teach you punctuation and grammar.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
        • RichardHead

          It was not bad grammar, just dialect from the Great State of Texas.

          November 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
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