Memories of Charlie Trotter's Interest in Lexington and His Impact on Women in Restaurants
“Charlie Trotter brought a singular mix of elegance, service, and innovation to the restaurant world and the customer experience that set the bar high for many. He leaves a rich legacy," former Lexington College President Dr. Susan Mangels said, remembering the heyday of Charlie Trotter’s when Lexington students enjoyed field trips to his famous restaurant in Lincoln Park.
Charlie Trotter was always known for encouraging students, though his was a path of discipline and detail. Lexington student Adriana Jurado (BAS, 2008) should know. She met Trotter on a Lexington visit and landed a job at his restaurant after graduation. She worked personally with Charlie Trotter as Director of Private Functions until he closed the restaurant last year.
“The change in the professional kitchen occasioned by Charlie Trotter’s success and his style was truly beneficial for women,” says Interim President Kelly O’Leary, who has a Master’s degree in Gastronomy—the study of Food and Culture. “I remember starting my career as a chef in the late 80s, around the same time Charlie Trotter opened his restaurant. At that time the professional kitchen could be a rough place. But Charlie Trotter was intelligent and cultured. His kitchen was dominated by an ethos of artistry and order. These are qualities that make it possible for women to show their culinary abilities—a smart, level playing field, so to speak.”
Charlie Trotter was not only a chef, but also a restaurateur, entrepreneur and businessman. Lessons in Service, a book by Edmund Lawler on Trotter’s business style—driven by his passion for service—has been on the reading list for Lexington’s Essence of Service, capstone service management course, since its publication in 2001. “Charlie Trotter’s vision of service was powerful, though at times he was criticized for being more focused on perfection than on the person,” commented O’Leary, who teaches Essence of Service, “He had a reputation for being demanding, which can be misunderstood—sometimes it is a wonderful service to the person. Educating and developing his staff seems to have been a genuine concern for him. I like the students to read about different approaches to service. What great restaurateurs have in common is that they all know service matters.”