Ode To Charlie Trotter’s Mother – Dona-Lee Trotter

Behind every accomplished man is a great mother. Case in point – Charlie and Dona-Lee Trotter.

Pictured: Charlie TrotterAnnie Trotter Hinkamp (sister), Dona-Lee Trotter, Scott Trotter (brother)

Charlie Trotter was a visionary – his relentless pursuit of excellence put Chicago on the international culinary map. Trotter accomplished so much in his life. He was the first Chicago chef to create haute cuisine from locally sourced, organic food, the first to serve a Michelin starred vegetarian meal, the first to host his own tv show, and the first to put a table for diners in the kitchen.

His drive for excellence and mercurial temperment were balanced by a deep commitment to serve those who most needed it – students, homeless, police, firefighters and many others. The Charlie Trotter Culinary Education Foundation raised over $1 million for culinary school scholarships.

Those who know Charlie’s history will also know that his mother fostered, and quietly facilitated, the best of Charlie Trotter. The elegant but unassuming North Shore matron and mother of four encouraged Charlie to pursue his passion for cooking at a time when North Shore boys just didn’t do that. Dona-Lee and her husband (now deceased) hosted dinners in their home for friends so that Charlie could test recipes for his eponymous restaurant in development.

Dona-Lee didn’t just help her son get his start, she also worked the hostess stand at the restaurant Saturday nights until it closed. It’s easy to imagine that while working she quietly calmed angst caused by her son’s demanding drive for perfection, too.

Charlie died much to young; but thanks in part to his mother, he leaves behind a magnificent legacy.