The Mackey’s Say Farewell to Charlie Trotter

May 20, 2012 at 4:27 PM | Posted in Chicago, Food | 2 Comments
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Molly, Ingrid and Vanessa

When we heard the sad news that Charlie Trotter’s was closing at the end of August, we decided to go and this time we would take the family. This was to be our fifth dinner there and our first, 14 years ago, changed our conception of what a great meal could be, what great service was comprised of. Trotter’s was famous back then, rated the best restaurant in the U.S. more than once.

So, last night, NATO Saturday in Chicago, we went with my daughter Vanessa, my son Brendan and his wife Molly. It was a beautiful night and our first stop was to Vanessa’s new apartment on Lake Shore Drive. With Champagne we toasted my wife, Ingrid’s, upcoming retirement from teaching and the night ahead.

I’ve included the menu in this post and I could write about each of the dishes but the end of our meal was exhilarating and I want to jump to that.

During the meal Charlie Trotter walked by in his chef’s white jacket. Then as my wife walked back from the rest room, she came face to face with him and they talked. He asked her to come back to the kitchen for a tour when our meal was done. Now, that kitchen is famous with its table and immaculate work space. Charlie’s mother came by, she is silver-haired and elegant, to remind us to stop by.

The Grand

So, when the last plate had been licked, we had our tour given by a young chef, as other cooks bustled around us. We thought that was it but then Charlie came over and asked us what our rush was. Upon telling him that we were originally from New York he said, “greatest city in the world and the dirtiest. Why don’t they close up a day every week and clean the sidewalks for a start.” He said it in such a way that you had to laugh. He is right, of course.

Then he took us through the kitchen where he films his cooking shows for PBS. Then onto  dining room setting for special events. It is here, he said, that he has groups of high school students visit three times a week for a full meal and a lesson. That lesson?

We are each our own boss, even if we work for supervisors or managers. We have to make our own way.

Farewell Charlie, you have brightened lives and left us with something to think about.


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  1. Please give my congrats to Ingrid on her retirement. I’m sure she has positively impacted many kids during her years of teaching.

    • I will pass along your congrats. Yes, she had a great run at Jefferson J.H. — 22 years. We should talk soon.

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