Charlie Trotter didn’t come from a food-focused family, attend culinary school, or start working in kitchens when he was 14. In fact, it wasn’t until college that Trotter discovered his passion for fine cuisine with the help of a roommate who loved to cook. Trotter—now an internationally renowned chef—taught himself the craft of cooking through practice, reading cookbooks, eating in the best restaurants, working under great chefs, and traveling.
At just 28 years old Trotter opened his eponymous Chicago restaurant in 1987, which for over two decades has been considered one of the finest dining establishments in not only the country, but also the world. His personal, modern interpretation of cuisine—one that increasingly blends Asian elements—set the bar for creative fine dining in America, paving the way for many of today’s best restaurants and chefs. The restaurant has received countless accolades, including eight James Beard Awards, induction into the Relais & Châteaux, membership in Traditions & Qualite, and five stars from the Mobil Travel Guide.
In 2000, Trotter opened Trotter’s To Go, a take-out gourmet retail shop in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Trotter has also expanded his culinary empire to Las Vegas, where he has Restaurant Charlie and Bar Charlie. Trotter is the author of 14 cookbooks, the subject of two management books and the host of a nationally aired cooking show, “The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter”, on PBS.
Beyond his culinary endeavors, Trotter has embarked on a number of philanthropic activities, including supporting national and international charities. Closest to his heart is the Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation. Since its inception in 1999, Trotter has hosted weekly dinners for high school students and underwritten annual fund-raising dinners for the foundation.
Chef Trotter received an award at the White House from President Bush and Colin Powell for his work with the foundation and was named one of only five “heroes” to be honored by Colin Powell’s charity, America’s Promise. In 2004, Chef Trotter was awarded the “Humanitarian of the Year” award by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his overall service to the community. And in 2008 he won both the StarChefs.com Chicago Rising Stars Mentor Award and StarChefs.com Community Innovator Award. Most recently, Trotter was named the 2012 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year.