Rochelle Trotter is gracious, courageous, vivacious and sagacious. It was an honor to interview her at the beautiful Langham Chicago. During our kitchen chat, Rochelle shares heartfelt stories along with life lessons she learned from her husband, the iconic Chef Charlie Trotter.
Chef Charlie Trotter’s legacy continues through the Charlie Trotter’s Culinary Education Foundation that provides need based scholarships to students in Illinois for the culinary arts.
Chef Trotter was a self taught chef. Due to his dyslexia, he struggled in his college academic classes. He took some time off from school and traveled the world and told his parents he wanted to be a chef. That decision changed the course of his life as well as the culinary scene in Chicago. According to Rochelle, the foundation has granted 30 scholarships since Chef Trotter passed away two years ago. I attended both fundraisers for the foundation, which were co-hosted by Rochelle and Chef Emeril Lagasse.
Rochelle is grateful that her husband’s legacy lives on forever through the “thumbprint he has left in the lives of chefs.” She affectionately refers to those who were influenced by Chef Trotter as “Charlie’s Angels.” She shares the poignant life lessons that her husband, Charles (as she always calls him) taught her during their 15 years together. They met each other at an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference. Many will be surprised by this man and chef they never really knew. (I actually never had the honor of meeting him). Rochelle explains, “Many knew about his relentless pursuit of excellence, but they didn’t know the soft side of Charles.” She shares stories of how Chef Trotter would bring homeless people into their home and invite them to dinner and even walked them to his closet so they could choose and take some of his designer clothes. “By providing food and clothing, he helped restore a level of self esteem and self respect, and who knows how that would impact them,” Rochelle says. She likes to describe Chef Trotter as a wine press in her life. Just like the grape which is pressed to fully extract the fullness of its capacity, Chef Trotter’s life pressed and impressed Rochelle to strive to reach her fullest self. She shares her amazing journey from her turbulent past as a gang member to succeeding in the corporate world as well as starting her own culinary consulting firm and even running marathons to raise money for Charlie Trotter’s Culinary Education Foundation.
Rochelle is truly a steel magnolia who continues to forge her own unique path while honoring the legacy of Chef Charlie Trotter.
And on a side note, Rochelle makes the most delicious key lime pie ever! She brought this delicious gift for me at our Kitchen Chat. Savor the day!