Charlie Trotter

Author Profile

Charlie Trotter opened Charlie Trotter’s (Chicago) in 1987 with his father, Bob Trotter as his partner. The restaurant has been open for 22 years.

Chef Trotter did not come from a “food focused” family. His interest in food was developed while he was in college and his roommate, Joel Fish (who was an avid cook) would prepare various courses for his friends to taste. Trotter became interested in what Joel was doing, and soon found himself immersed in the world of cookbooks and preparing meals as a way of entertainment for his friends and roommates!

Mid way through his college tenure (University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI) he decided to take a year off and read every book he could. This included cookbooks. As a way to make a living while on this break from school, Trotter took a job as a waiter. Upon return to college, where he earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Political Science, he began once again cooking and actually doing small catering parties.

After graduating from college Trotter traveled around the U.S. and Europe to dine at only the finest restaurants. He wanted to learn how the “best” gained that title, and see what the future could possibly hold for him.

He returned to the States and began doing catering parties (tasting menu format) for friends of his family. This was his way to “test the waters” on his culinary skills and his focus on the caliber of service and wine emphasis he desired. After doing this successfully for just over a year, he decided to open Charlie Trotter’s --with his now deceased father, Bob Trotter, as his partner.

The figure who most impressed Trotter during his culinary development was Fernand Point (of the famed Ma Gastronomie). Trotter was impressed most by Point’s sense of generosity...and to this day it is something which resonates within Trotter’s own highly philanthropic nature.

Trotter never went to culinary school, and is completely self taught. His first cooking job was at a restaurant in the North Shore area of Chicago called Sinclair’s (of the famous Gordon Sinclair). He was a cook there and worked under many now well-known chefs including Norman Van Aken and Carrie Nahabedian.

Chef Trotter has always had a strong philanthropic sense and his establishment of the Charlie Trotter Culinary Education foundation (which supplies scholarships to those entering culinary programs) as well as the Excellence Program (which allows high school students to come in and experience the cuisine of the restaurant, all the while hearing from various staff members about how they pursue excellence on a daily basis) are two closest to his heart.

Charlie Trotter – a living, culinary philanthropic legend! Although if asked, Trotter himself might say “A legend is an old person who is known for what they used to do – I’m still doing it!” A favorite quote from one of his jazz heroes, Miles Davis.

Photograph, Barry Johnson


Cookbooks by Charlie Trotter