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The Trotter Project Aims To Further Charlie Trotter's Legacy

By Lisa White in Food on Jun 12, 2014 4:00PM

Photo credit: Rob Loud/Getty Images
Charlie Trotter left an undeniable mark on the culinary world and laid the foundation for Chicago to become one of the top food destinations that it is today, including a dining scene chock full of of restaurants helmed by Trotter alumni. His memory and continued drive towards education and food excellence will live on with the announcement today of the formation of The Trotter Project.

This non-profit will be spearheaded by Trotter alumni, the idea originating after his passing last fall when alumni and colleagues began to express a desire to pay tribute to Trotter and the lessons they learned from working with him. Chef Homaro Cantu, who is chairman of The Trotter Project's Board, hinted at the idea of creating a foundation last year, and not surprisingly he is one of the main forces helping the new project come to life. He joined Trotter’s son, Dylan, this morning alongside other Trotter family members, culinary colleagues, city officials and press to announce the project and discuss the focus of its work.

The Trotter Project will be based in the building that housed Trotter’s eponymous restaurant and will focus around the “Pillars of Excellence Program” which are core beliefs Trotter held in high regard when running his own restaurant; food, wine & beverage, ambiance and service & hospitality. Trotter alumni from Chicago and worldwide will offer instruction and continuing education through lessons focusing on those core beliefs which all staff at Charlie Trotter’s were trained on. The Trotter Project will also offer a new rating and reviewing system for restaurants that will provide a fully transparent system based on data instead of opinion in the hopes to create a new standard. After speaking with Cantu we get the feel this system will be similar to the idea of a focus group, where individuals are not electing to review a certain restaurant but instead given an establishment to review within a strict time frame and using a very honest, fact based set of criteria that can then be shared with restaurants in real time to provide a more objective review. And much like a focus group, those providing the data will be a variety of individuals. It’s an ambitious endeavor and we’re interested to see the trends and figures that will come out of this data.

Besides the focus on shifting some ideas in the food industry, the project will also continue Trotter’s passion for education. Students will be invited to participate in dinners at the building, much like when Trotter would invite students to dine at his restaurant, as well as a focus on nutritional education for youth. The project is also working on a further series of initiatives that will include training and education programs in collaboration with local schools and grocery stores, as well as an urban farming component that will continue the conversation surrounding the issues of food deserts and how to eliminate them.

An advantageous endeavor seems fitting to pay tribute to a chef who helped push his own boundaries as well as the boundaries of those who studied with him before moving on to create their own mark in the culinary world. Cantu put it best when he remarked “We are humbled and excited to have an ever-widening circle of alumni and culinary colleague supporters who have joined the initiative to celebrate the lasting legacy of Chef Charlie Trotter.”

The Trotter Project’s first announced public event will be Sept 4 in collaboration with The Grant Park Conservancy hosting the opening night fundraiser, Savor, during The Windy City Wine Festival. The evening will include a menu prepared by numerous Trotter alumni. For more information on The Trotter Project and how to get involved, you can visit them online here.