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Chefs, Friends Celebrate Charlie Trotter on Last Night

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Charlie Trotter raises a glass to 25 years
Charlie Trotter raises a glass to 25 years

[Photos: Kipling Swehla]

On Friday night, Charlie Trotter's closed it doors after 25 years, but not before approximately 300 guests, who all came out to pay homage to Charlie Trotter, got one last fill of the legendary restaurant. But as has been reported, this wasn't going to be a fancy fete with multiple courses paired with expensive wine. Instead, the furniture was cleared out and chef stations were set up all over the spacious Lincoln Park restaurant—even out back in the courtyard—for a casual yet lively throwdown.

Trotter, dressed in plaid shorts and a chef's coat, chatted with guests who dined on delicious fare. DJ Madrid spun great house music and classic rock in the front room of the studio kitchen where Trotter had filmed many TV segments. Here, former avec chef Koren Grieveson, joined by Volo and Paramount Room chef/co-owner Stephen Dunne, served a delicious ricotta toast topped with crisp pancetta alongside a salad of marinated grapes and manchego cheese, while Bill Kim, on a surprise Friday night break from his brand-new restaurant, BellyQ, offered up a chilled salmon atop red quinoa as well as a piece of wagyu beef with four-legume salad toward the back of the room in the kitchen area.

Out back in the garden, a team of Trotter's chefs offered up bites of curried goat. On the table? A full barbecued goat that was said to be served up in a feast later in the night. Over in the main first-floor dining room, Food Network chef Anne Burrell couldn't keep people away from her goat cheese- and chorizo-topped corn cake that was then made even more decadent with the addition of a quail egg.

Upstairs, Graham Elliot and Merlin Verrier had their take on lox and bagels as well as a one-bite of Elliot's signature deconstructed caesar with the twinkie crouton, a piece of romaine and a perfectly salty anchovy. Across the hall, chef Reggie Watkins, Trotter's first-ever hire who now cooks down in New Orleans, served up an incredible crab and lobster gumbo as well as a corn-fried catfish, while at the table across, wine stewards poured delicious Sancerre, Chardonnay and a number of big-bodied reds.

If you were ready for a little dessert, Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal set up inside Trotter's kitchen with an assortment of her James Beard-awarded desserts like raspberry rugelach, a petite Quebecois sugar pie with peaches and tapioca, a framboise red velvet cake and a candy bar with milk chocolate and cocoa nibs with a coffee/salted caramel milkshake sauce.

As for the drinks? They were flowing. Legendary sommelier Larry Stone mixed together a spectacular pink-hued sangria made with fresh peaches and other fruit that many guests said was one of the best they'd ever had. Out back near the garden, a garbage-bag-lined can was filled with a potent jungle juice that when asked what alcohol was in it, the server simply replied, "yes." Fearing it may do them in, a group took sips off one cup and agreed the sangria was the way to go.

Earlier in the night, Trotter addressed his staff as well as the guest chefs and visiting friends like Giuseppe Tentori, Norman Van Aken and Tetsuya Wakuda, who flew in from Australia just for the event. Segal said Trotter was "eloquent and lovely" while encouraging his staffers to always work for themselves and be excellent. "He's an amazing human being," she said.

While the party was scheduled to go until midnight, around 10:30 Trotter was joined by many guests out front on Armitage, which was blocked off, to thank everyone for coming and to recall the many great years of his restaurant. Possibly stealing the thunder, Trotter's wife, Rochelle, extolled that Charlie "put Chicago on the fuckin map," before beckoning everyone back inside to keep the party rolling.

The bash may signal the end of an era, but now Trotter will embark on the next state of his life, which includes traveling before he enrolls in a graduate program for philosophy. Whether he'll open another restaurant? Trotter recently told Eater if they kick him out of school he can always open up another restaurant. Let's hope he does.
· Charlie Trotter Taps Bill Kim, Graham Elliot, Mindy Segal, Koren Grieveson, More for Final Bash [~EChi~]
· Look Around BellyQ, Finally See the Menu [~EChi~]
· All Charlie Trotter Coverage on Eater Chicago

Graham Elliot

217 W Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654 312 624 9975 Visit Website

Charlie Trotter's

816 W Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614 773-248-6228