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Fellow chefs remember Charlie Trotter at candlelight vigil

Chef PriscilSatkoff owner Salpicrestaurant speaks about late Charlie Trotter who was her close friend during candlelight vigil outside his former

Chef Priscila Satkoff, owner of Salpicon restaurant, speaks about the late Charlie Trotter, who was her close friend, during a candlelight vigil outside his former restaurant on Tuesday night. | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 7, 2013 6:41AM

When Charlie Trotter entertained special guests at his famed Lincoln Park restaurant — fellow chefs and favorite customers alike — he would round up his chefs from every station to line up and welcome them, no matter what time of day.

On Tuesday evening, hours after Trotter’s death, some of his most successful proteges and former co-workers returned to do the same, lining Armitage for nearly a block in a candelight vigil to remember the man who changed many of their lives.

From Graham Elliot and Homaro Cantu to David LeFevre and Giuseppe Tentori, those who learned from Trotter remembered him not just a talented chef, but as a philosophical man who taught them how to live.

“The thing that I always carry with me the most is his idea that everything is of equal importance — how you hug the corner as you sweep the floor, wipe things with your hand, season fish, touch things, have a certain romantic way about working with ingredients and how that carries into service and again in your personal life and how you interact with everybody on a daily basis,” Elliot said.

Others spoke of his sense of adventure in the kitchen: “He would sort of come in the kitchen and just say ‘This is the perfect day to do something,’ ” said Cantu, chef at moto .

Cantu proposed that Trotter’s chefs band together to form an alliance and a Kickstarter campaign to buy Trotter’s restaurant to make it into a “James Beard of the Midwest”: “When I look at this building, to me, it’s much more than a restaurant. It should be an opportunity for chefs that are starting up and coming to learn and further their education.”

Art Smith remembered his good friend as a man who was accepting of everyone: “As a gay chef, he was the first to accept me in the kitchen and he always loved me . . . they always say good to great, but for Charlie, it was great to excellent.”

LeFevre gave Trotter credit for his willingness to share with chefs around the world: “This isn’t a man who affected Chicago. This is a man who affected people in Spain, in Iceland and affected people in England, the Bahamas, in Australia and Japan. He was so generous with his sharing and wanting to collaborate, wanting to learn and wanting all of us to learn under his tutelage. It’s amazing. It’s truly amazing.”


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