How Much Chef Charlie Trotter Means To Me As A Chef And Colleague

Chef Charlie Trotter raised the bar for American cuisine. After reading the feature in today's New York Times Dining Section on Chef Trotter, I wanted to share my experiences with him, and how much he means to me as a chef and colleague. Chef Trotter was one of the first chefs that hooked me up. He always opened the door for Aquavit interns, and he would come to Aquavit with his chefs. He wasn't just a mentor to me, he was a mentor of US food.

I remember being in Switzerland, or in France, and seeing his first cookbook - I'd never seen a cookbook like that coming out of the US. I'd bet that almost every chef has a Trotter book at home.

Here are five things Chef Charlie Trotter gave me:

1. An introduction to the ingenious chef, and Trotter's fellow game-changer, Ferran Adria.

2. Arun's - an amazing Thai restaurant in Chicago.

3. Chef Trotter introduced me to so many ingredients, Buddha's Hand and Yuzu, to name two essentials.

4. Mattias Merges, the former Chef de Cuisine at Charlie Trotter's, is one of the best cooks I've ever cooked with.

5. Reggie Watkins, the sous chef at Charlie Trotter's, whips everyone into shape. He was the first employee and is a formidable and impressive character.

We cannot forget what this game-changing chef has done for fine dining in America. I look up to him and always appreciate his contribution to the world of food.