food

Award-winning Chicago chef Charlie Trotter dies at 54

Nov. 5, 2013 at 1:50 PM ET

Award-winning chef Charlie Trotter
Sitthixay Ditthavong / AP file
In this Aug. 28, 2012 file photo, chef Charlie Trotter is seen at his restaurant in Chicago. Trotter died Tuesday morning at age 54.

Famous Chicago chef Charlie Trotter died Tuesday morning, a fire department source told NBC Chicago affiliate WMAQ.

An ambulance was called to his home at 10:45 a.m., and he was found unconscious and not breathing, according to the Chicago Tribune. Trotter was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was 54.

Trotter closed his celebrated restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s, in August 2012 after 25 years in business. In 2010, it was one of only three restaurants in Chicago to be awarded two stars by the Michelin Guide. It also had earned numerous other accolades over its history. Upon closing the restaurant, Trotter said he planned to travel the world and go back to school to study philosophy and political theory.

"Personally, it's time for me to try something different,'' Trotter told TODAY's Katy Tur last year upon closing his restaurant. 

Trotter was a political science major at the University of Wisconsin who never went to culinary school. He was self-taught, picking up his love of cooking from watching an old college roommate prepare meals. Trotter started his restaurant in 1987 and watched the awards pour in; in 2000, Wine Spectator named Charlie Trotter's the best restaurant in the country. 

The James Beard Foundation named Trotter the country's Outstanding Chef in 1999, named him its Humanitarian of the Year in 2012, and gave the restaurant its Outstanding Service award in 2002. 

Trotter was known as a demanding leader to those who worked under him, pushing them to be the best. 

"I've never set out to be beloved,'' he told Tur last year. "I will do what I have to do to get it to a certain level." 

Video: Legendary chef Charlie Trotter is hanging up his white coat and shuttering his famed eponymous Chicago restaurant to head back to school for a philosophy degree. NBC’s Katy Tur takes one last peek inside Trotter’s kitchen.

Several famous chefs have also worked under Trotter over the years, including Graham Elliot, Grant Achatz and Giuseppi Tentori.

Trotter was "an extreme father figure to me when it came to not just cooking but life and seeing things in a different way," Elliot told the Chicago Tribune. “I just talked to him maybe two weeks ago and just can’t put into words just how saddened I am by all of this. It’s a huge loss not just personally but for the culinary world."

Many notables in the food world and Chicago took to Twitter to express their sadness and remember Trotter:


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