Charlie Trotter: the man’s been a legend for 25 years having run one of the first fine dining restaurants to champion local produce and developing cross cultural cooking to a level that hadn’t been done before. Charlie Trotter’s Desserts was the first cookbook I ever bought, having left college to go work at Gordon Ramsay at the Claridges as commis pastry chef. In that book was a recipe for Goats cheese and grape ice cream – a fabulous combination and one that has been replicated at numerous restaurants. I, of course, being a bit of a rebel and over excited at having learnt how to make ice creams for the first time, decided to attempt a goats cheese and grape ice cream! I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with that, except, I used the recipe for a normal ice cream mix, added goats cheese and some blended grapes. Having decided that it didn’t really taste of much, and that adding more cheese or grape wasn’t working, I decided to go the way of white chocolate. A bit of white chocolate would go nicely with the cheese and grapes no? Hmmm. It still needed something. Only god knows what persuaded me to fetch a bottle of white truffle oil and add that to the mix. What was I thinking? Nevertheless, I also thought that once churned, it would taste perfect – cheese, trufflen goats cheese, chocolate. All complementary ingredients no? Ice cream churned. I let it set. Feeling quite proud of my little experiment, I waited till the sous chef, Steve (who’s now head chef of Ramsay Claridges) came in to work and proudly took him a spoon of my creation. His reaction?
Well, a couple of years ago, on a bus, I met a young chef who had just started working in the pastry at Claridges. Naturally we struck a rapport and got talking and when I introduced myself, the reaction was “Oh! You’re the guy who did that ice cream! All pastry chefs get told that story” and with that, she burst in peals of laughter. Yes, I don’t think Steve is ever going to forget the goats cheese, grape, white chocolate and truffle oil ice cream I tormented upon him!
So it was with great excitement I went to Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. They were going to close the restaurant permanently and I was lucky to finally get a chance to go. The food was great, though now quite commonplace in its style and execution. As my meal neared its end, I could not wait to meet the man himself and tell him this story, to thank him for being a huge inspiration. As my waiter took me into the kitchen, Charlie was there talking to an another lady, so the waiter took me slightly ahead and into a corner. Charlie at once struck up ” hey – how did you cut the line. This lady was here first…” at which point he turned around and marched out the kitchen. Now, I had no inclination to see the kitchen so I bit my tongue as a chef took me around the kitchen. Once out, I spotted Charlie talking to his manager and was about to go up and talk to him when another manager stopped me. I mentioned I wanted to speak to him Charlie and the manager went and whispered this into his ear at which point I started walking forward. Immediately, Trotter shouts out “No, no! Don’t come here. I’ve already said hello to you. Goodbye”
I think his name should be Charlier Rotter! You could imagine my dejection and deflation as I walked out of that restaurant. Thanks for nothing Mr. Trotter.
And that was that.
Recommend you go: it’s closing in August!