Charlie Trotter gets testy at restaurant auction
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2012 7:30PM
Updated: January 14, 2013 7:26AM
Charlie Trotter rushed into the empty dining room of his former world-renowned restaurant.
The notoriously temperamental chef shoved aside the auctioneer as famed photographs that once hung on the restaurant’s walls went up for bid at a public auction Wednesday.
“Enough.” Trotter said. “Do you guys even know what this is? Of course you don’t.”
The auctioneer sheepishly stepped to the back of the room as Trotter let bidders know that what was left of the shuttered restaurant wasn’t junk — especially not the collection of Paul Elledge photographs that were selling for about $275 each.
“Just so you know, the frames alone are worth like $250, let alone an original image,” Trotter said of the Elledge photographs. “Are you kidding me? I mean, I’ll f------ buy them myself, together.”
Some in the crowd laughed; others weren’t sure how to react.
Trotter earlier warned that he would interrupt to describe items he thought were “extraordinary.”
The chef’s rant worked. A man made a $275 bid for the photograph of an enoki mushroom, which also was used in one of Trotter’s cookbooks.
He was involved in all aspects of the extravagant auction, from greeting people to ordering staff around with a loud snap and ordering at least two members of the media out the door.
He booted a Chicago Tribune reporter from the auction’s preview on Tuesday and had his assistant remove a Sun-Times photographer for taking pictures of his kitchen on Wednesday.
Besides the theatrics, there was plenty of substance to the massive auction of thousands of items — nearly everything in the restaurant. The impressive kitchen featured dozens of copper pots, strainers, ladles, measuring cups, spatulas — every utensil a kitchen could ever need and more.
A demonstration kitchen, where Trotter taught cooking classes and filmed PBS shows, displayed wine glasses and plates for bid. For the wine lover, a huge glass that could hold a liter of wine was selling for a minimum $1,000. An auction employee lifted it up to demonstrate how to swill wine in the massive glass.
At times sounding playful, Trotter addressed the crowd before the first bid, saying he had a hard time letting go of some items: “I kept on taking down special menus, silverware.”
The culinary world has been abuzz about which chef will take over the space, but no deal has been finalized. Still, auction staff said Trotter would keep items that did not reach the minimum bid or sell it to the new restaurant . Several large kitchen items already have been put aside for the potential buyer.
There were plenty of culinary admirers at the auction. Two chefs from Michelin Award-winning L20 stopped in to bid on Charlie Trotter’s menus.
Executive chef Matt Kirkley and sous chef Nick Janutol waited at the back of the auction room with their circled auction sheets: “We’re hoping to get two or three,” Kirkley said. “It’s not for the restaurant. Just for us.”