Celebrated Chef Charlie Trotter Found Dead

By on November 5, 2013
Charlie Trotter Speaking at JH Culinary Conference Jackson Wyoming Photo: Richard Ofstein MD
Charlie Trotter Speaking at JH Culinary Conference Jackson Wyoming Photo: Richard Ofstein MD

Charlie Trotter Speaking at the JH Culinary Conference Jackson Wyoming Photo: Richard Ofstein MD


Jackson Hole event last of Trotter’s career

The Chicago Tribune reported that chef and philanthropist Charlie Trotter, 54, died today at his Lincoln Park home.

On Sunday, Chef Trotter opened the first-ever Jackson Hole Culinary Conference, hosted by Central Wyoming College, with a candid talk at the Center for the Arts during which he took questions from the audience.

“We’re shocked about his passing, it hit us hard,” said CWC Director Susan Durfee Thulin after learning of his death Tuesday morning.

Trotter was diagnosed with an inoperable brain aneurysm and was under doctor’s orders to not fly or go to high altitudes, according to the Chicago Tribune. For years, Trotter suffered dizzy spells and seizures causing him to collapse. According to the report, Trotter despised sympathy and never let his worsening medical condition get in his way.

Thulin said she dealt closely with Mr. Trotter leading up to the event and that she felt they were extremely fortunate to get him to come. “We literally called him up, he answered the phone and said ‘Yes.’”

“Charlie is passionate about culinary education and he was really excited to come to Jackson and support CWC’s culinary program,” Thulin said.

Trotter has devoted much of his career and earnings to supporting culinary education through his foundation, The Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation.

Trotter traveled to Jackson Hole alone, arriving Sunday morning and leaving on Monday. He mentioned in his talk that his wife Rochelle had just completed the New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 3.

According to Thulin and other conference attendees, despite his “edgy” onstage persona Trotter was very engaging and spoke often of his wife and son during one-on-one conversations. Trotter had visited Jackson Hole numerous times for skiing, most recently with his 22-year-old son Dylan. He was tentatively planning another ski trip this winter.

Witnesses to Trotter’s Sunday night keynote address said he seemed to be acting strangely on stage. Some mentioned they noticed him sweating and that his hands were visibly trembling. Thulin agreed he seemed very tired, but noted that his fast turnaround in Jackson may have had something to do with it.

“He seemed restless yet at the same time tired, perhaps more so mentally than physically,” observed Richard Ofstein, MD, who attended Trotter’s Sunday night talk. “Some of us noticed that when he held the microphone in his left hand, his hand was shaking, like he had a tremor.”
Trotter’s sudden death hit the local food and wine community hard and left Thulin and her colleagues rattled.

“I heard even the Lander High School culinary club students were crying on the bus ride home from Jackson,” Thulin said. The Lander students participated in the conference.

And when Ofstien prophetically asked Trotter from the audience what he would eat for his last meal, he replied, “A bottle of 1900 Château Margaux.”

“Who knew this was his last act?” Ofstein asked.


— Additional reporting by Mary Grossman.

Chicago Sun Times: Trotter died from a stroke, “Probably brought on by flying to and from a culinary conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo.”

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