"You know what? I want to be a cook." This phrase, uttered almost 25 years ago, set young Charlie Trotter on the path to a stellar culinary career.
In 1982, Charlie took a position, cooking for minimum wage, and marveled at the fact that someone would pay him for doing what he loves. "I wanted to learn about cooking. Forget the career. If the career happens as a byproduct of learning more about food, so be it."
For several years, he traveled, continuing to study and work, reading cookbooks and eating out whenever possible. He studied with notable chefs Gordon Sinclair in Chicago, Norman Van Aken in Florida, and Bradley Ogden in San Francisco before returning to Chicago to open his first restaurant.
Charlie Trotter is famous for his eponymous restaurant in Chicago, which more than one culinary source has named 'the best restaurant in America'. Since the restaurant's debut in 1987, it has received five stars from the Mobil Travel Guide, five diamonds from AAA, and seven James Beard Foundation awards. Trotter's To Go, a take-out gourmet retail shop, opened in 2000 followed by a luxury resort restaurant, C, in Los Cabos, Mexico in 2004.
Chef Trotter hosts a popular series, Kitchen Session with Charlie Trotter, on PBS and has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books. In addition to a wide range of topical cookbooks, he has written business management books; the titles--Lessons in Excellence and Lessons in Service--reveal components of his hospitality philosophy that rank as high in importance as the quality and unique character of his food.
Plans are currently in the works to bring Charlie's culinary expertise to NYC with a seafood restaurant located in the Time Warner Center. Charlie continues with a full schedule as a motivational speaker, speaking not only to the culinary community but to other business leaders as well.
In 2005, he received a Humanitarian of the Year award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and was recently honored at the White House by Colin Powell and George Bush, for the philanthropic work he does with his Charles Trotter Culinary Education Foundation.
Name: Charles H. Trotter
Born: September 8, 1959
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Training: On the job
First Job: Cooking for minimum wage after college
Fun Facts: Banned smoking in his restaurant as early as 1989 and was cited as the inspiration for the ban on fois gras in Chicago (April 2006)