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Advice—and a Pop Quiz—from Chef Charlie Trotter

Posted by: Michael Arndt on February 1, 2010

If celebrity chef Charlie Trotter loves anything as much as fine dining, it’s parlor games. I got to crash a class trip to his flagship restaurant in Chicago by a group of some 100 MBA students at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, plus their marketing instructor, Andrew Razeghi. For $100 a pop, they took over the entire restaurant for a four-course dinner (with wine pairings) and inspiration and advice from Chef Trotter, as his staff calls him.

As he went from room to room to dispense his philosophy and answer questions, he teased and taunted the students with quotes, offering a free dinner for two to anyone who could name the source. No one in my room won.

Now you can play along in the office or at home. I’m listing the quotes here—plus one ringer—with the answers at the bottom. In between, I’ll pass along a few of Trotter’s insights. (Sorry, no free dinner prizes.)

1.”Goodnight, ding, ding, ding, ding.”

2. “Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being.”

3. “Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”

4. “Say, was I in here last night and did I spend a $20 bill?”

5. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

6. “I’m all about making money. It’s the greatest thing, because it means you get money to spend.”

Here’s Trotter’s quick course on entrepreneurship: Trotter opened his first restaurant 23 years ago. But he claimed he’s never worked a day in his life. Instead, he’s been doing only what he wants—and for himself. “Never work for anybody,” he told his guests. “Only work for you.” He also told them it’s OK, and even smart, to appropriate ideas from whomever you want. But you then must make them your own.

He also urged the MBA students to take a flier. “You’ve got to go do stuff. Be bold. Be ballsy. Too many people are chicken shit. Go do something for five years. You’re young. You can always play it safe later.” Their role model, he said, should be the title character in Werner Herzog’s movie Fitzcarraldo, who madly attempts to haul a riverboat over a mountain in Peru to exploit an inaccessible rubber grove. “It’s a metaphor for what all of you want to do.”

And the answers are:

1. Monty Python

2. St. Augustine

3. Tennessee Williams

4. W.C. Fields

5. Hunter S. Thompson

6. Charlie Trotter



What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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