The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Charlie Trotter Closing Eponymous Restaurant at End of August

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 1, 2012 3:00PM

2012_1_1_Cholly_small.jpg 2012 started off with a shocker of an announcement by Charlie Trotter. The chef who helped lay down the foundation for Chicago's modern restaurant scene announced he would be taking a "sabbatical" from cooking and closing down his eponymous restaurant at the end of August.

Trotter announced his plans first to his staff, then to guests at his annual New Year's Eve dinner. But it was the Sun-Times and their former food editor Janet Rausa Fuller who got the media scoop. Trotter, who recently married, plans on traveling with his wife Rochelle and going back to college to earn his masters degree. He plans on studying philosophy and political theory.

Trotter told Fuller he'll still own the buildings in Lincoln Park where his restaurant and studio kitchen are located and will eventually open a new restaurant. Trotter managed to maintain his two Michelin stars in the recently released 2012 Chicago Guide, and his kitchen has proven a training ground for such chefs as Grant Achatz, Homaro Cantu, Graham Elliot, Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal, Urban Belly's Bill Kim, and Grace's Curtis Duffy (whom we recently interviewed), among a litany of local chefs.

Yet, even with the Michelin stars — Trotter's two stars have been considered a snub by many among Chicago's food scene — and continued covers at his restaurant, Trotter has seemed like a chef left behind as media attention centers on Achatz, Cantu, and Elliot. Trotter, who once prided himself for "not having multiple projects in the works," never managed to completely parlay his reputation into sustained success with other restaurants.

Four years ago, Trotter was named as the executive chef for the Elysian Hotel Chicago, but backed out of the project two years later. Trotter's To Go, his casual takeout store, will remain open, but he did shutter two restaurants at the Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas last year and a planned restaurant In New York City's Time Warner Center was torpedoed due to a ballooning budget.

Trotter has also had a hard time trying to shake off his reputation as a taskmaster; Achatz dedicated an entire chapter in his biography Life: On the Line to highlighting Trotter's demanding nature. Yet both Achatz and Elliot say they wouldn't be the chefs they are today without Trotter. And a restaurant the quality of Trotter's doesn't stay open for a quarter century doing things wrong. Reservations for his restaurant may be among the most coveted in Chicago, if not the country, now that his announcement has become headline news.