Chow Town

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Chef Debbie Gold pays her respects to mentor Charlie Trotter

11/15/2013 4:13 PM

11/16/2013 2:24 PM

Curator’s note: On Nov. 5, the day Chicago chef Charlie Trotter died, Kansas City’s own Debbie Gold changed her Facebook profile photo to the legendary restaurant’s logo.

Gold worked with Trotter in 1987 to 1989, and in 1992 she was engaged to be married at the restaurant. He later attended her wedding. In 1999, she hosted her mentor at a 25th anniversary dinner at the American Restaurant .

Last week Gold wore her chef’s whites to Trotter’s funeral , which was attended by hundreds of fellow chefs from across the country also in their whites.

I ate very simple foods and was a very particular eater growing up. There were many things I would not eat. While working in France, I learned about all different foods that I would have sworn “we” in America did not eat. It was in incredible learning experience that went beyond the cooking techniques I was learning.

After two years I returned to Chicago. My sister told me about this restaurant that just opened called Charlie Trotter's. I applied for a job and was hired. I was amazed to see that I had a found a restaurant in Chicago that was using similar ingredients and techniques I had just experienced in France.

Charlie bought the best product available. I was able to work with product that only a select few restaurants were using in those days. Charlie had a vision for where he was going to take his restaurant, and he talked about it all the time with us. He wanted the best, expected the best, and brought the most out of the people who worked for him. It was his demand for excellence, precision, professionalism and continuous high expectations that has continued to be a part of my personal and work ethic that I have continued to demand of myself (and those around me).

I heard many stories this last weekend from other alumnae of Charlie Trotter’s. All I could think was that my experience was so different from theirs, and that Charlie, himself, was not the same Charlie they were talking about. We all worked hard and Charlie was very demanding, but we were a team. We worked hard, but had some great times, too.

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