Charlie Trotter's widow: Recent trip didn't contribute to death of Chicago chef

Sitthixay Ditthavong / Today
The Cook County (Ill.) Medical Examiner's office has announced that it could be up to two months before the cause of death is determined for famous Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, who died on Tuesday at 54 years old.

A statement released by the widow of famous Chicago chef Charlie Trotter on Friday disputes a police report indicating that he was not cleared to fly on a recent trip because of medication he was taking.

Trotter, 54, died Tuesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after being found unresponsive at his Chicago-area home. In a news release on Wednesday, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said the autopsy found no signs of foul play or trauma, but that it could take up to two months to complete additional tests to determine the cause of death.

Award-winning Chicago chef Charlie Trotter dies at 54

Trotter had been on medication to control seizures, according to a statement released to various media outlets by his widow, Rochelle Trotter. In her statement Friday, she said her husband had been cleared to fly to Wyoming for a culinary conference last weekend.

"In January Charlie was treated for a seizure as a result of an aneurysm which was discovered at that time,’’ she said. “His doctors prescribed the proper medication to control seizures, his blood pressure and high cholesterol and he was seen by a number of medical experts who cleared him to travel.

“He returned home from his most recent trip Monday night without incident. The autopsy indicates that his travel is not connected to his death. This is obviously a difficult time as we are still processing our grief. As his family and I focus upon putting Charlie's body to rest, we hope that this will settle the inaccuracies that have been reported and we can move forward in honoring Charlie's life on Monday. We ask for your patience and continued respect of our privacy."

A police report filed after he was found unresponsive by his son on Tuesday quotes family as saying he had been ordered by doctors not to fly, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“Per the family, victim was on medication for seizures, high blood (p)ressure and high cholesterol," the report states. "He recently flew to Wyoming against doctor’s advice. The wife states he has been drinking as well.”

A memorial for Trotter has been planned at a Chicago-area church on Monday morning.

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.