When the lights dim on 816 W Armitage on Aug. 31, it will be the end of an era in Chicago. At this point everyone knows that Charlie Trotter will close his eponymous restaurant after 25 years. Town & Country, in a (not online) feature that will appear in their September issue, sent Jay McInerney to catch up with Trotter to discuss his reflections of the past, and his goals for the future. Straight ahead, some Charlie-isms that will no doubt help you to better understand the man and his work.
On generosity: ” …when [McInerney’s] wife, who had met him just a few months earlier, at Alain Ducasse’s 55th birthday, solicited an auction item for the Alzheimer’s Foundation, he responded with a five-figure check.”
On perfection:” …[Trotter’s] sommelier consulted with the kitchen after we’d made our selection and reported back that the chef had adjusted the recipes after tasting the wine. I’d never heard of a chef who’d do this, and I’m not sure anyone else does it to this day…”
Trotter, on socializing: “I’m really not that comfortable with people. I mean, I love individuals, but I’m not very social.”
Trotter, on discovering his passion at Fredy Girardet’s restaurant: “Every element was perfect. All the elements added up to more than the sum of its parts. Suddenly I had a vision of what I wanted to do.”
What Trotter had to do to score a date with the woman who is now his wife: “Despite a palpable lack of interest on her part, Trotter managed to get Rochelle’s office address and sent her all of the books he’d written…when he later spotted her at the Aspen Food & Wine festival, he practically leaped from the table where he was autographing books to pursue her.”
On Trotter’s plans to study philosophy after closing the restaurant: “In January he starts graduate study in philosophy at the University of Chicago, a daunting prospect for a middle-aged dyslexic.”
What the future might hold: “Trotter has no plans to sell the building that houses the restaurant, and perhaps most tellingly, he told [McInerney] he has no plan to sell the wine cellar, despite the almost frantic interest of several auction houses.”