Charlie Trotter’s, a five-star restaurant here in Chicago, is closing its doors for good this Friday, August 31. Laura Martinez, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, has been working at the iconic restaurant for more than two years, and now she’s having a hard time finding a new job.
Most people with a prestigious cooking school and experience in the kitchen of a five-star restaurant on their resume would have an easy time finding a new job, but Laura Martinez is not like most people. She’s blind.
Laura got her job at Charlie Trotter’s after the famous chef and restaurant owner visited the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. Laura had been working in the Lighthouse cafeteria kitchen at the time, and it was love at first taste. Charlie is quoted in an article in the Chicago Tribune about Laura:
“I was watching her work and saw how she handled things with her hands, touching for temperature and doneness, and I ate her food and it was quite delicious. We got to talking and she told me about her dreams and I said, ‘What would you think about working at Charlie Trotter’s?’”
Laura was already attending the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary program at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago at the time. Charlie Trotter offered to help with her tuition, and Laura accepted a job at his restaurant after she graduated.
The Illinois Department of Human Services hired a personal assistant to help Laura with on-the-job training, but then staff at Charlie Trotter’s took Laura under their wing and started providing her with supportive job assistance, removing the need for the personal assistant. I had the privilege of meeting Laura last year, and she told me co-workers on the line at Charlie Trotter’s had become comfortable having her there prepping, cleaning and chopping.
Trotter says Martinez is an exceptional worker who brought value to his restaurant. “Besides being a great cook, she brings value through her professionalism. She is a great team member.” When I talked with Laura, I asked if she had a specialty. “Well, a lot of vegetarians come to Charlie Trotter’s,” she said, her voice betraying a proud smile. “They like my vegetable risotto.”
I have Laura’s contact info, but out of respect for her privacy I won’t leave it here. If you do have an idea of a Chicago-area restaurant or restaurateur interested in hiring a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu who is a great team member with years of experience at a world–renowned five-star restaurant under her belt, please leave the idea here in a comment and I’ll pass it along to her.