LINCOLN PARK — The vigil for world famous chef Charlie Trotter drew friends, family and former employees trained by Chicago's renowned restaurateur.
More than 100 visitors gathered in front of the former Charlie Trotter's restaurant, 815 W. Armitage Ave., where dozens of candles were lit in Trotter's honor Tuesday night.
Trotter was found by his son at his Lincoln Park home Tuesday morning. Paramedics treated him about 10:45 a.m. before taking him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:48 a.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. He was 54 years old.
An autopsy is expected to be completed Wednesday.
"I'm devastated today," said Bill Kim, chef and owner of Urban Belly, surrounded by dozens of Trotter's former employees. "He's made me somebody who looks at things differently in the world, not just as a chef, but being part of a community — to give."
Mourners lined the stairs of Charlie Trotter's restaurant and held candles. All said they had been impacted by Trotter over the two and a half decades that his American Nouveau culinary style made him one of the most renowned chefs in the country.
Trotter was a "truly a brilliant man," said celebrity chef Art Smith. "As a gay chef, he was the first one to accept me and I just want to say thank you," he added, noting the passage of gay marriage in Illinois on the same night.
Other protégés of Trotters present at the vigil included chef Homaru Cantu, owner of moto restaurant; chef David LeFevre, of the Manhattan Beah Post; chef Michael Taus, of Zealous restaurant; and master sommelier Serafin Alvarado, among others.
"He really cared about us, he opened our ears and our hearts to a whole different world of cooking and culture," LeFevre said. "Everyone here can say he changed their life for the better."
Trotter's family, including his wife, Rochelle, did not speak at the vigil, but provided a statement:
“We are incredibly shocked and deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of Charlie ... He was much loved and words can not describe how much he will be missed," wrote Rochelle Trotter. "Charlie was a trailblazer and introduced people to a new way of dining when he opened Charlie Trotter’s. His impact upon American cuisine and the culinary world at large will always be remembered."