Charlie Trotter, Chicago’s own iconic American chef, dies at 54

One of the country’s greatest chefs, Charlie Trotter, was found dead in his Lincoln Park home today, Nov. 5 at only 54 years old.

Trotter was found by his son Dylan at his Lincoln Park home and an ambulance was called at 10:45 a.m., according to a Chicago Tribune report.

The chef’s Lincoln Park restaurant closed last year, but changed the city’s dining scene forever – putting Chicago on the map as a culinary great. Charlie Trotter’s earned two stars when the “Michelin Guide” debuted in Chicago, and Trotter is the recipient of 10 James Beard awards among a slew of other honors.

Trotter is credited to starting careers for hundreds of chefs around the city and beyond, many who came to honor the late chef in a candlelit vigil outside the shuttered restaurant at 816 W. Armitage St. Tuesday evening.

“Not only was he a great chef but he was a great philanthropist as well as humanitarian,” Art Smith, owner of Table Fifty-Two and former “Top Chef” contestant, said during the Tuesday night vigil. “He taught us to use food as a way of bringing people together.”

Hundreds of friends, former employees and fans of the restaurant and chef gathered in the rain, fighting to keep their candles lit as they shared stories from the many now-successful chefs and restaurant industry workers whose careers Trotter launched. They lined up along Armitage Avenue in front of the restaurant, as the employees would inside when a guest of importance was dining, just how Trotter would have wanted it.

“He taught us that everything is of equal importance – how you hug the corners as you sweep the floor, wipe things into your hands, season fish,” Graham Elliot, “MasterChef” judge and executive chef and owner of the eponymous River North restaurant, said.

“Everyone here can say he’s changed their lives for the better,” David LeFevre, chef and co-owner at Manhattan Beach Post in Manhattan Beach, Calif., said. “I know personally I would’ve never been able to do what I’ve been able to do without that mentoring, without that care.”

As Homaro Cantu, chef and owner of Moto and Ing honored the late Trotter, he looked ahead to the future.

“This just seems like a perfect opportunity for all the chefs here form an alliance and do a Kickstarter to buy this thing so we can turn it into the James Beard house of the Midwest, ” Cantu said. “Because in my opinion, Chicago has much better restaurants than the East Coast.”

And that’s all thanks to Charlie Trotter.

For a photo slideshow of the candlelight vigil, head over to: https://www.depauliaonline.com/news/photos-candlelight-vigil-for-charlie-trotter-tuesday-nov-5-1.3113882#.UnnQcflwqSo