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September 16, 2014

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RIP, Charlie: Self-taught chef Trotter was brilliant and one in a million

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Palazzo celebrity chef Charlie Trotter wed his longtime lady love Rochelle Smith at the One & Only vacation resort on the Maldives in the Indian Ocean on Feb. 25, 2010.

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Charlie Trotter, Emeril Lagasse and Andre Agassi at Emeril's annual Carnival du Vin in the Palazzo.

Chef Charlie Trotter

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to acknowledge today’s tragic, far-too-early death of 54-year-old culinary genius Charlie Trotter. Chicago Fire Department paramedics found him dead in the Windy City. For 17 years, the renowned chef, beloved by his colleagues worldwide for his food excellence, had a Chicago restaurant that was regarded as one of the finest in the world.

I remember taking talk-show host Jerry Springer there for dinner, and we were absolutely dazzled by his brilliance with his fabulous food creations, which I’d often filmed. Charlie also operated his fine-dining establishment Restaurant Charlie at Palazzo from 2008 to 2010, and I enjoyed many a fantastic meal there with my chef friend.

He won a string of amazing culinary awards and was hailed by his peers not just as one of the best chefs ever in America but also one of the most charitably generous. He married his longtime girlfriend Rochelle Smith in 2010 and sent me an iPhone wedding photo from the Maldives to share with Vegas DeLuxe readers.

He was described today by chef Graham Elliot, who judges chef Gordon Ramsay’s “Master Chef” and is opening a branch of his Chicago restaurant here in Las Vegas, as a “mentor, trailblazer, philosopher, artist, teacher and leader.”

Charlie opened a restaurant at MGM Grand, Charlie Trotter’s, in late 1994, which, ahead of its time, operated for about a year before the hotel began renovating and redeveloping its restaurant program, leading to its closing.

Charlie appeared in the 1997 Julia Roberts’ comedy hit “My Best Friend’s Wedding” in a parody of a screaming and angry chef, yelling at his assistant, “I will kill your whole family if you don’t get this right! I need this perfect.”

He was a brilliant self-taught chef who penned 14 incredible cookbooks and closed his Chicago restaurant in August 2012 in order to pursue a master’s degree in political science and his desire to travel.

I know that he’ll already be organizing a superb restaurant up in heaven above where the Good Lord and Mother Nature will have the first reservations already booked.

Rest in peace, my friend. You were and always will be one in a million. God bless you — and especially Rochelle at this very sad, difficult and most unexpected time.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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