It’s hard to believe that there was a time when cooking shows weren’t popular. Or a time before there were TV networks dedicated to playing them. It’s even harder to believe that there was a time that most people wouldn’t have been able to name a single chef. Charlie Trotter changed all of that. His restaurant so popular that it was booked solid for six months the day it opened. And he became the first celebrity chef that everyone had heard of. This is true even if they didn’t live in Chicago or ever able to go to his restaurant. Unfortunately. after his meteoric rise came a tragic fall and a sudden death. And yet, his story is so fascinating that people still talk about him today.
Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter, looks at the world of the Illinois chef who changed the culinary world. The documentary explores his life. It starts from his childhood and university years, to the time when the spotlight was firmly watching his every move. What’s fascinating is seeing the two sides of the man. One side is the strict, hard worker who others knew for being a perfectionist restauranter. The other is the loving, caring man who did extensive charity work and wrote long, sometimes poetic letters to those he loved.
On one hand he was known as a mentor who helped many chefs launch their career. And on the other he was dismissive and hot tempered towards those he didn’t think were worthy of his time. The documentary shows both sides of the man extremely well. Yet even by the end you still feel like everyone else in his life, that you don’t really know what was going on it his head.
Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter is one of the best documentaries of the year, and should be up for major awards. It splices old home video and news footage of Trotter in seamlessly with new interviews of those who knew him. Even if you don’t know much about Trotter, or the world he inhabited, you will find yourself drawn in. Perhaps what makes this documentary so special is that it doesn’t sensationalize anything.
The documentary sticks to the facts, tells the story, and lets you decide how you feel about him. Even the opening statement Trotter made, that he didn’t want recorded, somehow doesn’t cloud your view of him. He said: “My philosophy has always been, if it weren’t for employees and it weren’t for customers, the restaurant business would be the greatest business in the world. And basically, I hate people.” In a way the statement just adds to the intrigue of it all.
Charlie Trotter may not have been the nicest person to everyone, but he was a revolutionary in the culinary world and the world was better for having him in it.