The culinary world lost one of its brightest stars on Tuesday, when celebrated chef Charlie Trotter passed away at the age of 54. Trotter was famed not only for his Chicago restaurant Charlie Trotter's (which closed in 2012 after 25 years of business), but also for mentoring many of today's top chefs, including Top Chef Masters contestant and star of Masterchef Graham Elliot.
One chef that Trotter greatly influenced was none other than our very own Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson, who shares a poignant story of being a young, 23-year-old cook who had big dreams about succeeding in the culinary world. "I was green beyond belief. I bought books, I read, I wondered, and I dreamed," he says. "I remember walking into the cookbook store in the Byward market in Ottawa and buying Charlie Trotter's eponymous first cookbook. It was stunning."
"It was new to me, everything about what he was doing," he continues. "It sent my mind racing about what was possible. It pushed envelopes and opened doors with flavored oils, modern sauces, elaborate garnishes, and towering plating styles. It was, for me, a revelatory text."
Indeed Trotter went on to win the James Beard award for Outstanding Chef in 1999 and his restaurant was named the best in the nation by Wine Spectator Magazine in 2000.
Acheson goes on to say that Trotter was "too young, too brilliant, and too utterly important to so many young chefs to lose at such a young age."
"His books meant a ton to me," he tells us. "RIP Chef, you meant a lot to so many."