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Rochelle Trotter Campaigns For 'Check, Please!' With Get-Out-The-Vote Bash

By Janet Rausa Fuller | April 1, 2013 1:20pm | Updated on April 1, 2013 1:56pm

LINCOLN PARK — Rochelle Trotter is seeking higher office.

The wife of famed chef Charlie Trotter is on a campaign to land the coveted "Check, Please!" host job vacated by Alpana Singh. To that end, she is throwing a "get-out-the-vote" party from 6-9 p.m. Monday at Tavernita, 151 W. Erie St.

Wine donated by the Trotters will be poured; cookies frosted with the words "Check, Please!" will be passed.

It's a little "tongue-in-cheek" given the April Fool's date, said Rochelle Trotter. But it's no joke that she wants the gig.

She has even printed up business cards with a "please vote" message, handing them out to contacts in the restaurant industry and her "whole Saks Fifth Avenue network."

"May the best qualified win," an ebullient Rochelle Trotter said during a chat at her Lincoln Park home.

And if she loses? "I will be devastated. That's my flesh speaking, especially having spent time twice with David and Jacqui. I believe there's such a natural chemistry between us. We could have a lot of fun."

David Manilow and Jacqui Wedewer are the creator and producer, respectively, of the popular WTTW-Channel 11 show, in which three random Chicagoans dish on their favorite restaurants.

When Singh decided to step down as host after 10 years, Manilow opened the search for her replacement. An online frenzy ensued. Video submissions came in by the hundreds.

Two weeks ago, Manilow and Wedewer narrowed the field to 17 finalists. The public has until April 17 to vote for their favorite. Voting won't entirely decide the winner, to be announced May 1, but it will have an impact, Manilow said.

And so the candidates have taken to social media, asking for votes, getting their friends to ask for votes and so on. Fans and the blogosphere have weighed in.

"Kinda brilliant for Rochelle Trotter, Charlie Trotter's wife, to use her $$$ to 'bribe' people to vote for her as the next host of Check, Please!," wrote Audarshia Townsend of the 312 Dining Diva blog on her Facebook page.

"Anyone but Rochelle Trotter," a commenter wrote on the Grubstreet Chicago blog.

Rochelle Trotter doesn't read the blogs, has Googled herself "probably twice in the past year" and until late last week, when she quickly set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for the first time, isn't active on social media. But she knows there are haters.

"People who don't know me judge me on the basis of my being married to someone who has a reputation for being a tyrant chef," she said. "I don't mind being referred to as Mrs. Charlie Trotter, but don't limit me to that, because there's a whole powerful woman behind that."

What people may not know about Trotter: She grew up in Tchula, Miss., and Chicago, poor to the point of splitting one watered-down can of Campbell's soup between her three siblings and her dad (her mom died when she was 11) and calling that dinner.

She got her first job at 14 after lying about her age, and put herself through college and graduate school. She has a culinary degree, a Level 1 sommelier certification and a restaurant consulting business. She is working on a proposal for a cookbook about life with, as she put it, a "tyrant chef."

Some of this, or none of it, may matter in this "Check, Please!" contest, which the tyrant chef, her biggest cheerleader, nudged her toward.

"What's the worst that can happen?" Charlie Trotter said. "You keep learning. It's about the experience."