World class chef Charlie Trotter dies in Chicago
Chef Charlie Trotter (R) speaks during a demonstration at the 4th International Gastronomy Summit, 'Madrid Fusion' in Madrid, Jan. 19, 2006. [AFP]

Celebrity chef Charlie Trotter, whose Chicago restaurant was considered among the finest in the world, died Tuesday at the age of 54.

The self-taught chef opened Charlie Trotter's Restaurant in 1987, astounding and delighting diners for 25 years, until it closed last year.

The establishment became a fixture on Restaurant Magazine's list of the top 50 restaurants in the world, won two Michelin stars when the French guidebook finally came to Chicago, and was named the best restaurant in America and best in the world by Wine Spectator in 1998 and 2000.

"Charlie Trotter changed Chicago's restaurant scene forever and played a leading role in elevating the city to the culinary capital it is today," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

"Charlie's personality mirrored his cooking -? bold, inventive and always memorable," Emanuel said.

"He will always have a seat at the table among Chicago's legendary figures."

Author of 14 cookbooks and a noted philanthropist, Trotter began throwing small catering parties while a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

He expanded his palate and love of fine dining by traveling around the United States and Europe after he graduated.

Upon his return, he worked briefly as a cook and caterer before opening his restaurant in a converted townhouse with his father as a partner.

He was found unconscious and not breathing by his son Dylan in their Chicago home early Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported. He was pronounced dead at hospital of what is expected will prove to be natural causes.

"The culinary world lost one of its best today," the Michelin Guide wrote on Twitter.

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain described Trotter as "a giant" and a "legend," while fellow Chicago restaurateur Rick Tramonto said that the city, and indeed the entire world "have lost a great Chef."

"We've lost a tremendous human being & a visionary chef, my brother, Charlie Trotter," famed TV chef Emeril Lagasse tweeted.

"If you had the stamina, Charlie Trotter's menus were like conversations in cuisine. Chicago, my condolences," wrote Indie rock star Liz Phair, a Chicago native.

Canadian country singer k.d. lang, meanwhile, wished Trotter a "swift rebirth," adding that she enjoyed his "culinary vision."

[Image via Agence France-Presse]