In the wake of Charlie Trotter's sudden passing, two of the iconic chef's famed proteges expressed shock and sadness today. While both Matthias Merges and Curtis Duffy echoed familiar refrains—including one of silence between Trotter and his many former chefs—both also exulted Trotter's vast impact on the dining world.
Matthias Merges, who worked under Charlie Trotter for 14 years before opening Yusho, is stunned and sullen today. He called the news "a big blow and a tragic loss."
Merges named a litany of innovations that Trotter is responsible for, including the first kitchen counter and an emphasis on wine-only programs. "Honestly, no one has had a greater impact in changing American cuisine into something that people can say is our cuisine...a true American innovator has been lost."
Merges says he's been out of contact with Trotter for "a long time," partly due to the reclusive state that Trotter fell into. Despite that, he says he owes Trotter immense gratitude, especially for his "endless desire to strive for excellence."
In a circle of life moment, today is a big day for Matthias for another reason—it's opening day for his latest restaurant: A10 in Hyde Park. "I can't think of a better tribute (to Trotter) than opening a restaurant tonight," he says.
Curtis Duffy, who worked under Trotter for three years before going on to star at Avenues and opening Grace, has similar feelings as Merges and calls the news "devastating." Duffy says that although he wasn't on speaking terms with Trotter, that he "took amazing things (from him) and always respected him to the very last day" and that he always will.
"He's still going to have an impact on the restaurant world 100 years from now," Duffy says. When asked what he took from his experience with Trotter, Duffy says "the ultimate puruit of something great. Even when something is great, there's always something to improve."
Grace opens for service at 5:30 p.m. A10 opens for the first time at 5 p.m. Charlie Trotter was 54.
· Reports: Charlie Trotter Dead at 54 [-ECHI-]
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