When Keith Fergel, the GM at Taylor’s Kitchen, learned last week that famed Chicago-based chef and restaurateur Charlie Trotter, 54, had died suddenly, he wanted to honor him in some way.
After all, the well-traveled Fergel had worked as director of operations at Restaurant C in Los Cabos, Mexico from 2005 to 2008. Once the tragic news sunk in, Fergel wrote an email and began contacting local chefs, encouraging them to put a special on their menus to salute one of America’s most influential chefs. Scores of chefs, citing Trotter’s influence on their own cooking, immediately agreed.
Watch for Trotter-inspired specials this week at Mulvaney’s, Ella, Kru, Taylor’s Kitchen and a host of other area restaurants.
“He was a game-changer in the culinary world,” said Fergel. “His talent was huge, his impact was profound and he was a great guy.”
Richard Telford, the chef at Taylor’s Kitchen, got a jumpstart on the Trotter specials last week, producing three dishes, including a seared duck breast with a port wine reduction and a creamy pnt l’evesque cheese. He will produce more specials this week, Fergel noted.
Even Billy Ngo, he of the contemporary Japanese cuisine at Kru, is going to produce a Trotter special.
A memorial service was held Monday in Chicago. Here is part of what Fergel sent out to local restaurants following the news of Trotter’s death:
“I got to know Charlie on a professional and personal level. He always had a vision for exactly what he wanted. He believed that in the hospitality business food was not the only thing that matters. He talked about the four pillars; food, wine, service and ambiance. All had equal weight. Big occasions deserved big gestures. For Chicago Mayor Richard Daly’s birthday fireworks appeared over the Gulf of Mexico to everyone’s surprise. When all of the general managers from Kerzner International came to visit 60 people in chef’s coats poured out of the kitchen to personally serve their imperial table.
“With Chef Trotter V.I.P. service was Orwellian. He liked to quote Animal Farm. “Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.” He had a flair for public speaking.
“His biggest strength I believe was plate composition. There has never been a chef that can take an empty plate and create such beauty as Charlie Trotter. To this day, I have never seen a chef look at an empty plate and compose food in such a way that before tasting or even smelling it, it creates a physiological response like great art, music, or theatre.
“Thanks again for joining me next week in honoring one of the greatest chefs America has ever known.”