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Autopsy today for chef Charlie Trotter

CHICAGO (MCT) — An autopsy is scheduled today for celebrated chef Charlie Trotter, who was found unconscious in his Lincoln Park home by his son, according to police.

An ambulance was called to the home in the 1800 block of North Dayton Street around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday after Trotter's son Dylan found him unresponsive, according to a police report. Trotter was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police have said the death does not appear suspicious. According to the police report, Trotter had suffered a stroke several months ago and had been told by a neurologist not to fly. However, he had flown to Jackson Hole, Wyo. to address a culinary conference Sunday night.

"He got on a plane this weekend and his son found him unresponsive this morning," the police report stated. "No drugs, alcohol or weapons found on scene and no signs of any suspicious activity."

Larry Stone, Trotter's longtime sommelier and friend, said the chef told him about a brain aneurysm, and had been told by doctors that he should not be flying, should not be at high altitudes and should not exert himself because of the resulting pressure on his brain.

"It was a time bomb, and he felt that he didn't have a lot of time left," said Stone, who now works with the Quintessa winery in Napa Valley. "It was inoperable, and it was not something that could be repaired; it was deep inside the brain. ... It was obvious he had problems and he had some seizures. It's a condition that had worsened in the last few years but it was something he had for quite a while."

But Trotter was not the type of person to ask for sympathy, Stone said.

"He said when your time comes, it comes; he didn't dwell on it," Stone said. "I don't think it made him very happy to know that he had a condition that would incapacitate him in some way. ... He never wanted anything to interfere with his craft."

Susan Thulin, director of Central Wyoming College that had sponsored the weekend conference, said Trotter arrived Sunday and left early Monday and spoke about excellence, "empowering your employees, being passionate about what you're doing ... and working so hard they have to hire two people to replace you."

Richard Ofstein, a former Chicagoan who attended the Jackson Hole conference, said that after Trotter dodged a previous question about what his favorite recipe was, he asked him what his last meal would be. Ofstein, a radiologist, noticed that his left hand was shaking as he held the microphone but didn't think more about it.

"I said, 'From one Chicagoan to another, what would be your last meal?' And he answered, 'A 1900 Chateau Margaux,' " a vintage bottle of wine worth between $9,000 and $16,000.

Trotter's wife Rochelle released a statement Tuesday evening saying the family was "incredibly shocked and deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of Charlie at our home in Lincoln Park. He was much loved, and words can not describe how much he will be missed. Charlie was a trailblazer and introduced people to a new way of dining when he opened Charlie Trotter's. His impact upon American cuisine and the culinary world at large will always be remembered."

(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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