Charlie Trotter's Legacy

Chef, cookbook author, and philanthropist Charlie Trotter talks about his culinary legacy on the eve of shuttering his 25-year-old restaurant Charlie Trotter's in Chicago

Released on 8/23/2012

Credits

Starring: Charlie Trotter

Transcript

00:00
(moderate drum and synth music)
00:05
Somebody told me recently that apparently, they
00:07
passed legislation in Chicago that you're not allowed
00:10
to open a restaurant unless you've worked at
00:12
Charlie Trotter's, so.
00:13
(laughs)
00:14
That's not true.
00:15
(playful jazz music)
00:19
Who are some of the now famous alums
00:21
that you've had in your kitchen?
00:22
Well, in no particular order,
00:26
Gar Maltays, who was my first sous chef,
00:30
and then subsequently chef de cuisine,
00:32
has a restaurant in Philadelphia.
00:34
A guy named David Meyers, who went on and he's got
00:37
a fantastic restaurant in LA.
00:38
A guy named Matt Merges who worked for me
00:40
for a long time.
00:41
He's got a fantastic new restaurant called Ushow.
00:44
David LeFevre.
00:45
He did his externship with us at the restaurant,
00:48
and then when he graduated, returned and spent
00:50
10 years in the kitchen.
00:51
One of the things we try to do at the restaurant
00:53
is create a culture of leadership, where you don't
00:55
work for me.
00:56
Well, you do, but you really work for yourself.
00:58
So even though my standards for you
00:59
might be exceedingly high,
01:01
your standards for yourself have to be higher.
01:04
So that has bred a culture of people that want
01:07
to go on and open their own restaurant.
01:08
I'm forgetting names, but there's been
01:10
a legion of them.
01:11
Not to mention, a legion, we've probably graduated
01:14
10 sommeliers to go on to be master sommeliers.
01:17
[Female] Wow.
01:18
[Charlie] Yeah, no, it's a serious number.
01:19
So it's a big focus on wine and service,
01:21
and not just the culinary side.
01:23
And you have literally written the book about service.
01:25
You've written, I think, three hospitality books?
01:28
We have a book on excellence, a book on service,
01:30
and a book on wine service, so.
01:32
[Female] And 14 cookbooks.
01:34
[Charlie] Yeah, I wrote that stuff. (laughs)
01:36
And I also know that you've won just about
01:38
every award possible known to mankind.
01:40
Didn't you get an award from President Bush?
01:42
That was a nice thing, with Colin Powell's
01:45
America's Promise Award, where they chose five
01:47
small businesses around the country that weren't just
01:51
writing checks for charities, but were mentoring people.
01:54
You have this amazing foundation that's earned
01:57
millions and millions of dollars
01:59
for different charitable programs.
02:00
Do you want to talk a little bit about it?
02:01
I think it's-
02:02
Well, it's a two-pronged thing.
02:04
The one part is the fundraising arm, our foundation,
02:07
and it's raised over three million dollars,
02:09
and that's fun.
02:10
But that's easy to do that kind of stuff,
02:13
because as an excuse to raise money,
02:16
I invite great chefs from around the world to come
02:18
and we cook together.
02:19
And people want to come, and then all the money
02:21
goes to the foundation.
02:22
So literally, you could name the chef.
02:23
I think it would be harder to name the chefs
02:25
that haven't been with us.
02:26
That's the one part.
02:27
The other part is a program that we refer to as
02:29
the Excellence Program, where we invite young
02:32
juniors and seniors from public high schools
02:34
around the city of Chicago to come in
02:36
and have the dining experience.
02:38
So they have an eight or nine-course meal.
02:40
They hear from eight to 10 culinary people,
02:41
some dining room, some kitchen.
02:43
And our folks describe the dish and then talk about
02:45
what they do to pursue excellence,
02:48
and then we go around the table, and every young person,
02:51
even the teachers that are the chaperones,
02:52
have to ask two questions throughout the afternoon.
02:55
Have they asked you what you're gonna be doing next?
02:57
Has that come up?
02:58
That's come up in the last few months or so.
03:01
My response typically is,
03:03
I have no idea what I'm gonna do.
03:05
I'm gonna make it up as I go, as I've done my whole life.
03:08
See, I've never worked in my adult life.
03:10
You have to understand that.
03:11
It's sort of like, pinch?
03:13
I make a living doing this?
03:15
It's so far from actually working
03:17
that I feel almost guilty about it, so.
03:20
So you're gonna get a job now, is that what you're saying?
03:22
Well, I'm not getting a job.
03:23
(laughs)
03:24
No, I'm gonna indulge myself with no more than
03:27
three years of academia.
03:29
So it's back to college for me.
03:32
Wow, good for you.
03:34
And the last day of the restaurant is August 31st?
03:36
August 31st, yes.
03:37
What do you have planned for the last day?
03:39
We have an interesting plan for that night.
03:41
We're going to do something that's the polar opposite
03:45
of what we've done for 25 years.
03:47
Almost a tip of the hat to Guy Fieri
03:49
with the dive diner and drive-in food.
03:52
(laughs)
03:53
I'm not making this up.
03:53
With Kobe beef sliders and the best corn beef
03:58
sandwich things, and all kinds of things like that, so.
04:02
God, that sounds like a great way to go out.
04:05
(moderate drum and synth music)