Today Charlie Trotter's body was laid to rest. When I heard the news last week of his unexpected passing, I was shocked and saddened. While I didn't know him personally, I was fortunate enough to eat at his ground-breaking restaurant twice. Once in 1989, just two years after he opened his famed name-sake, and again in 2001; this time working an event for a friend. The second visit was unique because not only did I have the meal in his studio kitchen, I actually got paid to eat this amazing food.
Charlie Trotter, considered one of the finest chefs in the world, changed the fine dining scene in Chicago, helping the city become the food capital it is today. So many current Chicago (and beyond) chefs have learned so much from this talented, culinary master. Trotter closed his 60-seat restaurant in August 2012 after 25 incredible years.
Click Here to read a Chicago Tribune article about the memorial service.
My "take-away" from this intensely, creative chef fits the "youthful eating" philosophy I try to incorporate into my everyday life:
1.) Trotter strived for excellence, not perfection. Excellence allows for the human element which will never be perfect.
2.) Even in his early days, Trotter veered away from cream and butter in favor of vegetable based sauces that didn't mask the flavor of the food as heavier sauces would have. He also stopped serving foie gras long before Chicago's temporary ban of the luscious fat duck livers, because of the in-humane way it is made.
3.) Trotter did not serve hard alcohol in his restaurant. He felt that too much alcohol interfered with the appreciation of food. Wine was served with every course, and champagne to begin, but no hard alcohol.
4.) While Trotter was known for his degustation menu, 12 courses in one sitting, his portions were small. This allowed guests to enjoy multiple courses without feeling as if they were in a food coma at the end of the meal. He wanted people to be energized from his food, not lethargic.