Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lou Reed and Charlie Trotter

They have a couple of things in common:

First, both recently deceased.

Second, highly influential.  Somebody famous once said about the album Velvet Underground and Nico that only 30,000 people bought the album, but they all started bands.  Likewise Trotter to a degree.  An amazing number of hi-end chefs made their way through that kitchen before becoming famous.

I ate at Charlie Trotter's once.  I was in Chicago with a bunch of sales and marketing people from my biggest client at the time.  Perhaps ten of us sat down for dinner that night, and everybody except me had an exceptional time.

I mention me because, about half way through the appetizer course, the brand manager (my direct contact) leaned over to me and whispered "I'm going to need you to pick up this check."  She then proceeded to order a couple more bottles of wine.


Every small company goes through its ups and downs and The Mammoth Group at the time was in a bit of a slump.  And this restaurant was freaking expensive.  With every mouthful after that all I could think about was the waiter, having collected my credit card, returning with one of those faces that waiters get and telling me that it had been declined.

"Let's have some cognac," somebody at one point said in a loud voice.  Desert, I don't have to tell you, was agony.

Anyway, proof that a benevolent god exists, my credit card somehow withstood the onslaught.  Relieved, I tipped heavily and later the head waiter took us on a tour of the famous wine celler.  Which was pretty amazing.  So I guess it all turned out fine.  I just wish I could have enjoyed my meal.

Trotter's obituary from the Chicago Tribune is here.  The Times has a nice remembrance here as well.  Apparently he was a good guy, too.  Which can be unusual in the restaurant business.  I once got into a shouting match with Jaques Pepin in the kitchen of Hubert's.  Guess who got fired?

To this day I think the guy's an asshole.

Getting back to my client, who for security's sake we'll call Mona Mulholland.  I liked Mona a lot.  Very straight shooter.  Lots of clear direction.  Perfect client.  After she told me I was picking up the check I managed to compose myself (with perhaps the exception of my quivering lower lip) and ask, just as casually as one might remark on a recent Knicks game, "Oh really?  Why?"

She then explained that it would be she who reviewed my expense account, whereas her boss would be reviewing hers.  And she didn't quite feel like having that discussion, multiple thousands of dollars later.

I wonder what Mona's up to now.


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