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Charlie Trotter Shut Down Auction Early

By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 13, 2012 9:40PM

Photo by Huge Galdones, via Grubstreet Chicago.
In an inauspicious end for Chicago's most auspicious restaurant. Charlie Trotter's was set to auction off the entire restaurant yesterday, including the furniture, artwork and dishes. Everyone just sort of assumed the sale would be a great success, especially after the auction of the wine cellar fetched $1.1 million. Not so much. The Tribune reports that the auction went so badly that the chef shut it down a third of the way through.

Mark Caro, who was tossed out of the auction preview the day before yesterday, reported in the Trib that only about 10 percent of the items up for auction sold. He talked to Kevin Bunte, owner of the company hosting the auction.

The Chef's Table, where guests could dine in the kitchen and watch the chefs at work, sold for $400, [Bunte] said, but none of the other 30 dining tables drew a bid. Nor did any of the 115 Viennese Secessionist ebony-framed, Josef Hoffmann-upholstered chairs, which required minimum bids of $200-400 apiece. The highest-priced item sold was a Viennese Secessionist settee that went for $2,000...The restaurant’s plates, stemware, pots, pans, and kitchen utensils and equipment never went on the block.

The story was even more dramatic from the Sun-Times, presumably because they were able to go to the auction.

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...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.”

He also tossed out a photographer from the Sun-Times. At least he's an equal opportunity newspaper insulter.

After a few hours, Trotter killed the whole auction without notice or giving a reason. Is this the final tantrum from the famously mercurial chef? Or was there another reason to shut it down? The auction might be rescheduled, and we suspect that whoever is purchasing the space next wants some of the fixtures.

In any case, we'll be keeping an eye on eBay for some really nice tables and chairs.