Sneed: Charlie Trotter told not to fly after stroke but jetted to Wyoming last weekend
BY MICHAEL SNEED November 5, 2013 8:22PM
Megan Gallagher, special events manager for Jackson Hole Wine Auction & Grand Teton Music Festival, poses with Charlie Trotter last weekend at a culinary conference in Jackson, Wyo. "Thrilled to meet Chef Charlie Trotter tonight at the #jhculinaryconference," Gallagher wrote in the caption on the photo on Instagram. | Photo courtesy Megan Gallagher
Updated: December 7, 2013 6:38AM
The Trotter tragedy . . .
He was a culinary legend.
He was famously temperamental.
He was a chef struggling for a foothold in a world outside the doors of the famous Chicago restaurant he abruptly closed a year ago.
The sudden death Tuesday of legendary chef Charlie Trotter, 54, a star in the gastronomic firmament, not only stunned the food world and shocked his family, but Sneed hears Trotter’s health had been steadily declining since he closed his signature eatery.
“He never really got over it . . . the loss of his restaurant,” said a top Sneed source.
“The restaurant was his world,” he said. “Charlie may have closed it, but I don’t think he really wanted to sell it. Maybe as long as he held onto it, his world still existed.”
Sources tell Sneed that Trotter had fallen into depression; was canceling events at the last minute, and had been closeting himself at his home, which he shared with his second wife, Rochelle.
The final chapter of Trotter’s life began in January, when the gastronome guru suffered a stroke during a trip to New York.
“Charlie was under treatment for months, and doctors had told him not to fly, travel in an airplane,” a source said. “It was all kept pretty quiet. Few people knew he had suffered a stroke.”
Ironically, Trotter, who already was reclusive and had not flown since his stroke, decided to accept an invitation to keynote a culinary conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., this weekend.
“We were frankly amazed that he would be the one who answered the phone, and he agreed to come out,” said Susan Thulin, the conference organizer.
“Everyone was shocked he decided to fly, let alone go to Jackson Hole, because he had been canceling everything,” a source said. “It was also the first time he had flown since his stroke. It wasn’t unusual for him to show up at a chef event for 15 minutes and leave under the radar.”
Was it his keynote theme of “Excellence” that drew Trotter out of reclusiveness and onto center stage?
“Others in the audience, who had seen him before, said he was classic Charlie Trotter: a little on the edge, authentic, talking passionately about empowering employees. He referred to them as team members,” Thulin said.
Thulin added: “He said he wasn’t sure if he should call himself retired or unemployed. He didn’t stay long.”
Returning to Chicago on Monday morning, Trotter complained to his son, Dylan, about not feeling well, a source said.
Trotter’s wife, Rochelle, had not attended the conference with her husband. She ran the New York marathon on Sunday.
The final day of Trotter’s life began at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday with a 911 call to the Chicago Fire Department from Trotter’s son.
Four paramedics battled to save Trotter, who was found unresponsive in his Lincoln Park home. “There was no pulse, no breath, no sign of trauma, no sign of suicide,” said a Sneed source.
“It appeared to be a classic case of heart attack. He was basically medically dead. Ambulance 11 drove his inert body to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a last-minute attempt to resuscitate him.”
An autopsy was planned for Wednesday morning.
Since his stroke earlier this year, Trotter had also been dealing with the fallout of two incidents, which resulted in embarrassing headlines.
◆ In June: Trotter had been sued by wine collectors for allegedly selling them a phony bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti wine for $46,000. “He had sold them a magnum and the company didn’t make magnums,” said the attorney for the wine collectors. “The case is still in litigation.”
◆ In August: Trotter, who overcame dyslexia and championed high school students dealing with the condition by bringing them into his kitchen, kicked up a dust storm after kicking a group of After School Matters photography students out of his restaurant. Trotter’s behavior was described as bizarre.
“He was a really strange guy,” said a top restaurant source. “It was hard to point a specific finger at his behavior, but you knew something was wrong.”
My brief encounters with Trotter, who was sensitive to criticism and profuse in charm, were magical. He was delightful, happy, upbeat . . . but eccentric.
It is fitting that this gastronomic genius, who helped put Chicago on the epicurean map, had a final say on culinary excellence just a few days before he died.
His legend will survive.
It’s just sad that he didn’t.
Obama expresses ‘delight’ about same-sex marriage vote . . .
Gov. Pat Quinn fielded a special call from the White House shortly after the historic Illinois House vote on same-sex marriage, according to a Sneed source.
◆ Translation: Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, called Quinn to express the president’s “delight” at the passage of SB10 in the state House, clearing a path for gay marriage in Illinois.
◆ The bill that passed the House on Tuesday was a slightly amended version of the bill the state Senate already had passed in the spring session. The law will go into effect June 1, 2104.
◆ Backshot: When Obama stopped by Galesburg for a speech last July, he told Quinn that he placed special importance on the passage of same-sex marriage in his home state.
◆ Upshot: The gov’s message to the president today: We got it done.
Sneedlings . . .
Wednesday’s birthdays: Sally Field, 67; Ethan Hawke, 43, and Maria Shriver, 58.