The NYT reports Charlie Trotter will be closing his groundbreaking Chicago restaurant in 2012. Chris Schooley weighs in via a lengthy Facebook post – which is unlinkable unless you're “Friends” with Chris, so we've excerpted it in its entirety:
Charlie Trotter's namesake restaurant was one of Intelligentsia's early wholesale accounts back when I was a roaster there, and if I'm not mistaken, its first restaurant account. Trotter making a statement at that time about the quality of all of his ingredients including coffee definitely paved the way for coffee programs in fine dining restaurants throughout the city. In the last year or so there have been a number of articles written and comments made about restaurant coffee, and I was always a little surprised since the relationship between specialty coffee and fine dining had been so well established in Chicago for quite some time.
From a coffee roaster's perspective, speaking with chefs about roasting was always so illuminating to me, as there was so much crossover and this was an audience who could really understand what was happening not just in the roaster, but all along the lines of production. But it was also always very humbling because what I always thought about and spoke with them about was that at the end of the day I was using one cooking method with one ingredient while these chefs would be serving maybe 200 covers or more/less a night where they might use well over 20 or 30 different ingredients and more than 5 different cooking methods. This is something that I've always taken to heart and tried to keep in mind in regards to coffee roasting. But the other side of that is the importance of the knowledge of your ingredient(s), and this is where I always made the strongest connections with these chefs.
Restaurant accounts can be very tricky, but if you demonstrate knowledge and exude passion for the work, you can forge some of the most enduring professional relationships of your career. Though that is one chef that i never did talk to about coffee roasting, kudos to Trotter for going out on top and thanks for setting the table for great coffee in a great city.