Two Las Vegas chefs remember Charlie Trotter, the legendary Chicago chef who died yesterday at his Lincoln Park home at age 54.
Paul Bartolotta, who has the now going through a renovation Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas, remembers Trotter from his days as the executive chef and managing partner of Chicago's Spiaggia restaurant.
"He put Chicago on the [culinary] map. There's nobody else that did it. Not to take away from Rick [Bayless] and Paul [Kahan], but Charlie really was the first to bring international consumer food attention to Chicago. It was his passion for wine and food. His attention to detail. His unrelenting passion for perfection," he tells the Chicago Sun-Times.
"He did modern American food. He took French technique and really clean presentation of food and married the two to create a 'Charlie style' of food," Bartolotta says. "So he said, 'I'm gonna do this set menu, vegetarian and regular. And that was it.' He stayed extremely true to what he believed and I don't think that's a bad thing."
The Sun-Times also talked to Shawn McClain, who has Sage and FIVE50 Pizza Bar at Aria. "Charlie was a huge influence to me because when I got out of school, he was well on his way to setting his mark nationally and internationally. When I was at Trio [in Chicago] and then when I started Spring in 2001, he was always a big supporter. Whether it was emotional support or just a note or letter of support, he was always so kind. When he dined at Spring or Green Zebra, I was always humbled and honored."
Both chefs also called his forays into the Vegas dining scene "a combination of bad timing and Mr. Trotter being way ahead of his time in the desert city." Trotter, who opened Restaurant Charlie and Bar Charlie at the Palazzo in 2008, closed those restaurants in 2010. He also opened Charlie Trotter's at the MGM Grand in 1994, but that closed a year later.
"He was so ahead of the curve the first time with MGM that people weren't ready for it," McClain says. "People's focus out here was still on gaming and entertainment. The second time, with Charlie's at the Palazzo, it was bad luck timing again. It was the height of the recession. People just weren't spending their vacation dollars out here like before."
· Two Las Vegas/Chicago Chefs Remember Charlie Trotter [Chicago Sun-Times]
· Chicago Legend Charlie Trotter Dies at 54 [~ELV~]
· All Coverage of Charlie Trotter [~ELV~]