September 20, 2014
Celebrity chef Charlie Trotter left a group of After School Matters photography students scratching their heads Thursday night after they said he insulted them and kicked them out of his restaurant.
Trotter agreed to let the students use the space in his now-closed restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s, at 814 W. Armitage, as a gallery to showcase their photos.
The notoriously temperamental chef apparently became offended when the After School Matters instructor refused to order his students to sweep floors and plunge toilets, according to photography student Dominic Tafano, 18, a senior at the Chicago Academy.
Before Trotter booted the students out, Tafano said the chef asked him if he was “A f------ idiot” because Tafano didn’t think to ask Trotter if he would like a drink before heading around the corner to pick up a soda at 7-11.
He asked a female student if she was going to get a “Charlie Trotter’s” tattoo and told her it wouldn’t be a “tramp stamp,” according to the girl and several other students.
Students said their artwork and electronic equipment, including iPads, were locked up inside the restaurant.
An After School Matters supervisor said Trotter sits on the After School Matters board.
“They’ve been planning this for over a month,” said the supervisor, who asked not to be named. “It was supposed to be a really positive event. Young people working hard all summer making their photographs, framing them, putting them up, marketing to people to come out. We sell their work, too.”
The students ate pizza in a parking lot across from the restaurant as they called parents for rides home and tried to figure out how to get their photos back.
In an emailed statement early Friday, Mary Ellen Caron, CEO of After School Matters, wrote: “Last night, teens from After School Matters Summer ASM Darkroom at the Chicago Photo Center program arrived at the former Charlie Trotter’s restaurant to set up for a public exhibit of their work planned for this evening, Friday, August 30. Due to unforeseen circumstances at the site, the exhibit was unexpectedly canceled. We are working to reschedule the exhibit.”
Trotter briefly exited the building but refused to answer reporters’ questions before returning inside.
“Should I do an Alec Baldwin or what?” he asked a reporter.
Then he asked: “Do you have a job?”
Then he shut the door.
Contributing: Becky Schlikerman