Charlie Trotter's Oak Park connections


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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

The autopsy performed Wednesday to determine the cause of Charlie Trotter's sudden death was inconclusive. More tests, including a toxicology analysis, will be conducted said the Cook County medical examiner's office. It could take between six and eight weeks to receive the test results. The celebrated chef and restaurant owner died Tuesday at the age of 54.

He was found unconscious just before 11 a.m. in his Lincoln Park home by his son Dylan, said family friend, chef and restaurant owner Carrie Nahabedian. Shortly after, he was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Trotter was well known in the fine dining community for his passion for food and his new take on American cuisine, but he also had Oak Park connections.

Rochelle Smith, a long-time Oak Parker, became Rochelle Trotter after their marriage several years ago. And Charlie Trotter was active in raising Rochelle Trotter's two adopted sons.

Together the Trotters were active supporters of Oak Park-based Hephzibah Children's Association. They were hands on in running a three-week summer cooking course for Hephzibah children at Dominican University in River Forest.

"It was a fabulous experience and we have great pictures and memories of them working with our children," wrote Mary Anne Brown, executive director at Hephzibah Children's Association, in an email. "He was a wonderful man and will be missed."

Many may also be surprised that the man famously known for his temper showed a gracious amount of gentleness to the children at Hephzibah.

"[He] was patient and giving with our Hephzibah children," said former Hephzibah adoption specialist Davida Williams in an email. "He particularly embraced our older boys, encouraging their goals and he truly showed interest in their lives."

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported that back in January the largely self-taught chef suffered a stroke while on a trip to New York. His health had been in decline since his namesake restaurant, Charlie Trotter's which opened in 1987 in Lincoln Park, closed in 2012.

According to Sneed, Trotter soon fell into depression thereby making himself a recluse, but agreed to attend a culinary conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., last weekend. Rochelle Trotter did not attend because she ran the New York City Marathon Sunday.

On the Monday following his return to Chicago, the Sun-Times reports that Trotter complained to his son about not feeling well.

"Charlie Trotter changed Chicago's restaurant scene forever," Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said in a statement issued by his press office Tuesday. "Charlie's personality mirrored his cooking—bold, inventive and always memorable."

The Wilmette-born culinary game-changer had written a number of books, received James Beard Awards, and starred in a PBS show "The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter".

Trotter is survived by his son, wife, mother and siblings, Thomas and Scott Trotter and Anne Hinkamp.

Chicago Tribune restaurant critics remember Charlie Trotter

Reader Comments

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Posted: November 7th, 2013 12:05 AM

Oh geez. C'mon Lisa. You're the only one making adoption sound like a negative. No one else thought twice about that detail. But hey it's always fun to see Oak Park liberal, anti -capitalists celebrate a guy who made his mark charging $400.00+ for dinner .

Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2013 6:36 PM

Charley Trotter made a name for himself and for his city by committing his life to his profession. His generosity and his passion was the sauce to all the extraordinary meals he served. We are all the legacies of a special human being, and we all grieve for his wife and family.

Lisa from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2013 6:15 PM

My condolences to Mr. Trotter's family and friends during this difficult time... Please note that ALL children are a family's children, no matter their origin or gene pool. It is unnecessary and a bit offensive to refer to adoptions in this context, especially in such a diverse community as ours.

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