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Bonjwing Lee on Dining at Charlie Trotter's

Chicago chef Charlie Trotter passed away suddenly yesterday at the age of 54. Below, Bonjwing Lee (of the blog Ulterior Epicure) remembers meals at Trotter's, as well as the great chef's legacy.

[Photo: Ulterior Epicure / Flickr]

Yesterday, a number of media outlets contacted me requesting photos that I took at Charlie Trotter's. For some inexplicable reason, the number of request for Trotter photos didn't strike me as odd. Nor, because I've been otherwise occupied, did I think to ask what they were for. And, because I've been cut off from the world-wide web [I am in a remote, jungle location in southern Mexico with restricted access to the internet; a firewall is blocking most websites, but not email], it wasn't until much later that I learned that the culinary lion of Chicago had unexpectedly passed away.

I first ate at Charlie Trotter's in 2003. Other than venison, and some crudo, I couldn't tell you what I ate that night without looking at the signed menu that I have at home. But what I can tell you is that my first meal there taught me to expect and demand more of restaurant service. I had never seen such choreographed movement in a dining room before. The servers not only moved intuitively amongst themselves, but they also seemed to be able to presage my every thought, my every need. In those adolescent years of my dining life, the service at Charlie Trotter's became the yardstick by which I measured the service at fine-dining restaurants for years thereafter.

[Photo: Ulterior Epicure / Flickr]

When Trotter announced in late 2011 that he was closing his restaurant in mid-2012, I immediately made a reservation for Trotter's kitchen table - The Original Kitchen Table. Seated there, at that field of white linen between the chef's pass and bins of washed wine glasses, Trotter told us about his next chapter in life. Who knew his story would end so quickly?

If America's culinary world had an enfant terrible, it was Charlie Trotter. His madcap manners aside, it's undeniable that Charlie Trotter inspired an entire generation of American cooks and diners with his unorthodox approach to cooking and the restaurant business. An era has ended.

[Photo: Ulterior Epicure / Flickr]

· Ulterior Epicure [Official Site]
· Ulterior Epicure: Charlie Trotter's 2012 [Flickr]
· All Charlie Trotter Coverage on Eater [-E-]

Charlie Trotter's

816 West Armitage Avenue Chicago, IL 60614

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