The last thing many folks will remember about Charlie Trotter are the stories about how he supposedly cursed at some school kids who were using the space of his old, namesake restaurant for a student gallery.
According to “reports” he used slurs… ripped down their work… yelled at them. That is according to some. There are only a few people who ever get to know the truth when things are reported.
We all know that the media distorts and twists and elevates things to artificial heights, as teasers and enticements… for ratings and attention. With the speed of the web a story is reported and changed within minutes. No vetted sources, no confirmations, just a race to be first, not right… to be quick, not accurate.
I am not sure what the outcome of that story was, and as we all know, there are always more than two sides to everything. Life, like the stories that exist within it, is a polygram. Many sides… many opinions… many sure they saw what they did, even though some “equal witnesses” are in direct conflict with their reports…
Things may appear one way, but be completely different, depending on the angle and the light, and yes, even the historian.
Regardless, it seemed like things were not good when the restaurant closed… Odd behavior… Selling off the prestigious wine cellar… Something was amiss. That is what happens when your life’s work and life’s blood is taken away. You lose a reason to be happy and to live. Some can adapt and find other things in which to take pleasure. Others cannot.
We’ll learn later, perhaps, what happened and what caused his death, but there are some things that we need to remember right now
This man was an artist with food. I had the pleasure of dining at Charlie Trotter’s once, and I loved it… and while it was after its hey day, and the room was in need of an update and just some simple fixes… it was before what seems like a rapid decline, and it renewed my faith in American dining.
I met Charlie Trotter. He was a sweet and soft-spoken man. I have all of his books, but one or two. He signed them for me. All of them. This was at the Festival of Books at UCLA, years and years ago. My buddy Josh got me his Desserts book for my birthday. Signed.
I joked that it took 3-4 people to make any of his recipes. Probably true, but I tried. And I sure liked looking at the pictures. He was an inspiration.
This is a chef who redefined service… at least here. He knew what made dining in Europe so special and brought that sense and sensibility to this country… He even has a book devoted entirely to this subject… Oops… I guess there are two and I am missing both…
Lessons In Excellence from Charlie Trotter and Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter. I am on Amazon, looking at the list now… Way more than I realized… Guess I’ll be buying the rest of his library…
Charlie Trotter elevated food, dining and service to an art form. No, he was not the first. One only look at James Beard and Julia Child and many others, of course, but he was perhaps the most modern… and the one to take it even a bit higher. It sure seems like many of today’s most successful and special dining destinations took a page from one of Charlie Trotter’s books… or of course, the man himself.
I am a foodie… that dreaded word, I know. A man who loves food in its raw form… hopefully clean and organic… In its cooked form, hopefully prepared with love and attention… and in its finished form… the experience, the joys of what you ate and drank and who you were with… A story, an experience… to last a lifetime.
There are those folks who simply look at food as a necessity… dining as a means to an end. Most of the time that is true. We eat on the run, in our car, shove things down our throats because we have no time to sit and enjoy and digest.
Fine dining is not something most of us can do that often. It is expensive and time consuming. But for those of us who love food, who see that the plate can also be a palate, an empty canvas… that a restaurant can be an evening of theatre and a true destination… and that a night out, a meal, can become a cherished memory…
For those of us who see the culinary arts as important and blissful, we must tip our toque, raise a glass and enjoy every bite, slowly, purposefully, and say thank you, Charlie Trotter. RIP.