Farewell to a Culinary Icon: Chef Charlie Trotter Dies at 54

Charlie Trotter

Photo by Sally Ryan/ZUMA Press

It’s always a shock to lose a colleague, but when it is one as young, talented and irreplaceable as Charlie Trotter, it is devastating. Charlie Trotter was 54 years old when he was found unresponsive in his Chicago home this morning.

Trotter, who closed his iconic restaurant in Chicago just last year, had an eye for color and creativity unmatched by any other American chef. He made two forays onto the Las Vegas Strip: Charlie Trotter’s during the 1990s at the MGM Grand, and a second in the Palazzo, Restaurant Charlie—both short lived. They were outstanding, in my view, well ahead of their respective times and tremendous assets to the Las Vegas dining scene. More than once, I referred to Trotter as the American Pierre Gagnaire, the three-Michelin-star chef from Paris, whose food is served at Twist in Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas.

Trotter himself was awarded two Michelin stars, adding to his many accolades, one of which included a 1999 award as Outstanding American Chef from the James Beard Foundation, the highest honor an American chef can receive in this country. He came here at the behest of his friend, Emeril Lagasse, who himself was coaxed to enter the Las Vegas fray by our original celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck. Reached by telephone, Puck seemed startled at Trotter’s death, almost disbelieving: “Charlie was a great American chef.”

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