I am deeply saddened by the death of one of my culinarian gods, Charlie Trotter.
Death hits me extra hard since my daughter and parents passed away, years ago.
The last time Robert and I saw Charlie, he was happier than I had ever seen him (while working- Trotters). He introduced me to his mother that day. He was bouncy, smiling, and kissed me on the cheek with a good over the shoulder hug. Normally, he never did this; he was driven, a yeller (which I never liked in the kitchen), but people respected him. He never let you drink hard alcohol before a taste and a good meal to boot, because it would desensitize your taste buds to flavor.
It was a privilege to have known and worked with him. In the early 2000's, before moving to NJ, in Dallas while working for the culinary school I often helped other chef friends do charity events, The La Toque (Epilepsy Foundation), Cook-offs (BBQ and Chili), and anything we could get the students involved in for experience. It was just after my oldest child passed away from heart disease, and I needed distractions.
Charlie was at a distance from me while we all were setting up in the afternoon in downtown, and I was put in charge of the wait staff for a 700 seated dinner. He came over next to me to get something, I was slicing paté and he suggested I go in closer with my finger to get a more precise cut (lots to feed that night). He stood there (making me nervous) watching as I worked, but patted me on the back once everyone was done that night. All the top chefs that night opened champagne and insisted we all toast to pulling off a great night. It was fun, because I was around many big names that night and expedited a lot of food off to the wait staff. Volunteering is a great way to learn the trade.
Each time I saw him afterwards he said hello (which I know is silly, but it meant something to me as a fellow chef), but still always so serious. He saw me and recognized me in Austin, and offered to sign books during a busy night, two my husband and I carried with us just in case we got a moment with him. I even had the privilege of him getting upset with me, which he was known for. I shook it off, because the next time I saw him in Chicago he more than made up for it.
I did feel, do feel, that often people are so driven they forget to enjoy life, then it is too late.
I only wanted Charlie, I want you all to be happy while doing what you are passionate about.
Someone, I forget whom was quoted, said "Heaven will eat better now that he is up there."
"I experiment with Flavors"...
Elizabeth Stelling, hails from her home state of Texas and has been involved in the food industry via institutional, fast food, B&B's, ethnic eateries and other restaurants since she was fourteen. Now living n New Jersey she has ran her own cafe, teaches culinary classes, runs a small boutique catering and staffing business, restaurant consulting for NJWBO, is a personal chef and shares her love of cooking with local, organic, healthy, and natural ingredients with the community.
Chef E is a member of Slow Food and the American Wine Society, Princeton, New Jersey. She has published written works of poetry and media pieces, as well as ran Open Mics in the Princeton, NJ area.
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