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.
Police expected to stage a death investigation at Trotter's home. Trotter leaves behind his wife, Rochelle, and their son, Dylan.
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."
Please share your memories of Charlie Trotter in the comments below.
Next entry »5@5 - Classic pasta shapes to master
« Previous entryConsider not taking your middle school football team to Hooters