Charlie Trotter just might be America's most famous chef-restaurateur. And he knows it.
"There was a law that was passed about five years ago, in the city of Chicago: you couldn't open a restaurant unless you worked at Charlie Trotter's," he quips.
His restaurant has stood at the forefront of both gastronomic experimentation and inventive dining experiences for decades.
Trotter is also dyslexic.
He grew up in a family of book-lovers in Chicago. Everyone had their nose in a novel. Charlie shared that love, but found that it took him at least twice as long to get through a classic than his friends and family. He was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child but had such a passion for learning that nothing could hold him back.
He worked harder than his peers right the way through university, where he studied political science and philosophy. It was hard going, but he didn't let the mismatch between a traditional education and the way his brain worked hold him back. He explained in an interview once that he took a year out of university just "to read the books I wanted to read, not just textbooks: Henry Miller, Ayn Rand, Faulkner..."
On the side, Trotter worked in restaurants as a line chef to pay bills. After graduating university, he opened his first restaurant with his father. And it's been 25 years of dominating the culinary scene ever since.
When he looks back on his school years now, Trotter has a positive take:
"...whereas I used to think (dyslexia) was a disability, I've come to regard it as a strength. I read differently, and I do take longer to read something, but when I read something it is etched into my brain and I can quote long passages. Now I value the fact that I had to learn differently."
Trotter has recently closed down his world-renowned restaurant to pursue another love – philosophy. He's preparing to dive himself back into his first love of books. And rather than feeling held back by his dyslexia, he's more excited than ever about what lies ahead.