Last Supper

Article excerpt

Byline: Associated Press

Award-winning chef Charlie Trotter is closing his iconic Chicago restaurant after 25 years, setting out on a new path as bold and surprising as many of the dishes he served to the world of foodie fans he helped foster.

At 52, he's going back to college to study philosophy.

"You can't do the same thing forever or your head just might blow up," Trotter told The Associated Press this week, rolling up the sleeves of his white chef's coat before one of the final dinners at the restaurant, Charlie Trotter's. "You can do what you do forever but you've also got to find ways to stimulate your mind."

Trotter is synonymous with gourmet cuisine, earning 10 James Beard Awards and providing a training ground for some of the country's other best-known chefs, like fellow Beard Award-winner Grant Achatz of Chicago restaurants Alinea and Next.

Charlie Trotter's earned two stars when the highly respected Michelin Guide debuted in Chicago last year.

Today, the restaurant's sold-out last meal will feature other chefs, such as Graham Elliott and Mindy Segal, who worked under Trotter and have earned their own culinary fame preparing special dishes.

A self-taught chef who didn't go to cooking school, Trotter has written more than a dozen cookbooks and starred in a PBS series, "The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter." He credits traveling the U.S. and Europe after college and dining at the best restaurants to develop his signature style.

"He really is somebody who changed and made a difference in this culinary world that has become so popular today," said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation in New York. "He was one of the first to do the five-, six-course extravaganza and I think that really put him on the map."

Three days before closing night, the Charlie Trotter's staff holds a typically detail-laden pre-dinner meeting, discussing specifics down to the exact dates when diners last ate at the restaurant and reminders about when to use certain wineglasses.

Dishes from the final week of menus include poached white asparagus with charred Broccolini, manchego cheese and red pepper essence and root beer leaf ice cream with vanilla cremeaux and birch syrup-infused meringue. …