(November 6, 2013 - London)
I will never forget sitting in Charlie Trotter's office. It was full of books. One one side of the door were shelves with political theory books, and on the other side of the door were shelves with books about food. He was my kind of chef. Cerebral, but without that annoying neo-avant garde habit of making food interesting but not tasty. Whip smart but not a show off about it. A pain in the ass who could lie while looking at you straight in the eyes, and neither of you would feel badly about it.
Chef Trotter and I had quite a few run-ins over the years. I lived in Chicago from 1997 to 2002. It is a small city, with a tight and awesome food scene.
Chefs comp each other, VIP each other's staff, make a big deal of showing off to each other with a huge amount of camaraderie. One of my favourite Chicago moments was going to a Bastille Day party full of chefs in a lot next to Paul Kahn's Blackbird, drinking an obscene amount of Veuve Cliqcuot, and listening in to the restaurant talk. Chef Trotter was a bit different. You heard all sorts of rumours about which up-and-coming chef he'd purposefully messed up the meal for in retaliation for some five year old slight. Everyone had a story, but I honestly saw a totally other side of him.
Maybe it's because I wasn't in the business. I just liked food and occasionally was lucky enough to write about it in the press. I'll never know why, but we kept up an on and off occasional correspondence for probably four or five years. He even once sent me a Christmas present while I was living in Honolulu (unsurprisingly, it was one of his cookbooks).
Regardless of what anyone else thought of him, regardless of any of his accomplishments or rivalries, pettiness or grandiosity, regardless of it all, even as only an acquaintance, Chef Trotter had a huge impact on me and who I ended up becoming as an adult.
He encouraged me to be the go-getter I was at heart. He encouraged me to ask for what I wanted, and take it. He encouraged me to follow my heart professionally, with all of the passion, perseverance and lack of sleep available to me.
He encouraged me to grab the world and have fun.
He will be deeply, deeply missed.