Legendary Charlie Trotter’s sous chef Reggie Watkins, ‘backbone’ of kitchen for 25 years, dies at 64

For 25 years, Reginald Watkins was the backbone of one of the most famous kitchens in the world, the acclaimed Charlie Trotter’s in Lincoln Park. While a stunning roster of chefs passed through the restaurant throughout the years, Watkins remained a constant, working as the primary sous chef — and kitchen confidante for owner Charlie Trotter — until he left the restaurant in 2011, a year before it closed for good.



Charlie Trotter, Margalita Chakhnashvili posing for the camera: Chef Reginald Watkins, right, holds a sign honoring his former boss Charlie Trotter, center, during a ceremony naming a portion of Armitage Avenue as Honorary Charlie Trotter Way in August 2012.


© Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Chef Reginald Watkins, right, holds a sign honoring his former boss Charlie Trotter, center, during a ceremony naming a portion of Armitage Avenue as Honorary Charlie Trotter Way in August 2012.

On Monday night, Watkins died at age 64, of unknown causes during a visit to the emergency room in his home city of Chicago, after having spent the last several years working and living in Louisiana.

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Following news of his death, many former co-workers from Trotter’s and beyond shared heartfelt memories and regards on social media about “Chef Reggie,” a man they remembered as being tough but gentle — and a necessary guide to help young chefs survive what was a notoriously demanding kitchen environment.

“He was a legend in his own right,” said his daughter, Lerita Watkins.

“He was a real icon at that restaurant,” echoed chef David LeFevre, who worked two stints at Trotter’s kitchen between 1995 and 2004.

The Los Angleles-based LeFevre was among a long list of former co-workers who shared tributes to Watkins earlier this week, along with Grant Achatz, Bill Kim, Giuseppe Tentori, Sari Zernich-Worsham and plenty more.

“My dad was in love with cooking, working, being amongst his peers who also shared his love with being a chef,” Lerita Watkins said. “He kept in touch with so many of those people that he trained. He did.”

Born and raised near 35th Street and King Drive, Reggie Watkins was raised by his mother and grandmother and lived in the city for almost his entire life. In 1987, he responded to a newspaper classified ad seeking kitchen help, which led to his meeting Charlie Trotter, who was looking to open a restaurant. The ad had published for the first time on that date, Trotter’s son Dylan said, and Watkins was the first person to respond.

“When he first met my dad, he was just going to lie and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve cooked before,’” Dylan Trotter said Watkins recently shared with him. “But then when he saw my dad and saw his face, he was like, ‘I knew I couldn’t lie to this guy. I had to tell him the truth.’ They just had the connection right off the bat.”

The rest is actual history. Watkins was famously hired as the first-ever employee at Trotter’s, running the kitchen from its first day until his last day in 2011. He and Charlie Trotter grew to be close friends, almost like brothers: “We always envisioned those two getting old together,” LeFevre said. (The restaurant closed in

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St. Augustine grad Charlie Kitchen selected in 2nd round of NLL Draft | Atlantic City Sports News

The National Lacrosse League, like most professional leagues recently, held its annual draft Friday virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And even though it was a different experience than being in-person, hearing his name called was still special for Charlie Kitchen.

The New England Black Wolves selected Kitchen in the second round (24th overall) of the 2020 NLL Entry Draft, which was livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube and Bleacher Report Live.

New England general manager Rich Lisk informed him via text moments before the Black Wolves’ time clock expired.

“It was literally one of the most amazing things ever,” said Kitchen, a 2016 St. Augustine Prep graduate who helped the Hermits reach the state Non-Public A semifinals three consecutive seasons (2014, 2015 and 2016).

“I have just been working for this my entire life. Getting a text that said, ‘Welcome to the team,’ is super exciting. My family and friends were freaking out. It was a great day.”

St. Augustine coach J.C. Valore expressed his pride in Kitchen on Saturday.

“Our program’s extremely proud of Charlie,” Valore said. “In a league flooded with Canadian talent (the NLL has a lot of Canadian players who grow up playing box/indoor lacrosse), for Charlie not only to be drafted but be selected second-round, speaks volumes of his skill set and continued work ethic. I’m excited to watch him cap off a record-breaking career at Delaware this spring and also for what lies ahead for him in the NLL.”

Kitchen was watching the draft with friends in his dorm at the University of Delaware. The 22-year-old from Marlton, Burlington County, is a standout attacker for the Blue Hens.

Ninety-three athletes were selected in the six-round, 13-team draft. After he was drafted, Kitchen had a Zoom session with his family.

“It made me more anxious,” said Kitchen, who would have attended the draft in-person, about the virtual experience. “Being there, you just kind of have that release where you see faces, get to shake hands and see that everyone is there, whereas I’m just sitting here watching the TV.

“It was crazy, because you’re just sitting there hoping to hear your name. But they did a great job with it. It was really great for all those players. I’m happy for all of them. I’m happy I have this opportunity, as well.”

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Kitchern lost his senior season at Delaware due to the coronavirus outbreak, but he took the fifth-year eligibility option the NCAA gave all the seniors who lost the opportunity to compete this spring. He is already listed on Delaware’s 2021 roster.

The NLL, which is an indoor lacrosse league, runs its regular season from December to April. And since Kitchen will play for the Blue Hens next spring, he will not compete in the upcoming season in the NLL.

But an extra season in college could be beneficial.

“I’m so excited (for another chance to play for the Blue Hens),” said Kitchen, who led Delaware (10-5) to the Colonial Athletic Association

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Garden Rescue: Charlie Dimmock looks unrecognisable in throwback to early career


Francesca Shillcock




Charlie Dimmock has been a regular on our TV screens for many years, but nowadays you can find the presenter and garden expert alongside Harry and David Rich (AKA The Rich Brothers) on hugely popular BBC show, Garden Rescue. After the new series was halted due to coronavirus, fans are hoping that the garedening programme will be back on screens as soon as possible.

MORE: All you need to know about Garden Rescue star Charlie Dimmock’s love life

But back in the day, Charlie was best-known for appearing on another popular garden show. The 53-year-old began her career back in 1997 when she first appeared alongside Alan Titchmarsh and Tommy Walsh on Ground Force

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Charlie has been a household name for a number of years

The programme ran for eight years before it came to an end, making Alan, Tommy and Charlie household names. Here’s a throwback to Charlie’s early career and what the presenter looked like then and now…

MORE: Garden Rescue star Charlie Dimmock’s secret heartache

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Charlie was known for her work on Ground Force

Charlie Dimmock then: early TV career

After studying horticulture and training at the Chelsea Physic Garden, Charlie landed her gig on Ground Force alongside fellow hosts Alan Titchmarsh and Tommy Walsh. Charlie became somewhat of a heartthrob on the show. However the presenter admitted her new found fame was something she admitted she didn’t expect to happen.

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The presenter pictured in her early career

Speaking in 2014, Charlie said: “It was all very silly. I remember Esther Rantzen said to me, ‘You’ll be referred to as the bra-less one for the rest of your life.'” She added: “People still comment on it to me. Some of them are male fans, some of them are female.”

Charlie Dimmock now: Garden Rescue

In July 2016, Charlie began presenting new gardening show Garden Rescue. For those unfamiliar with the format, presenters Charlie, Harry and David compete against each other to design a garden for a member of the public.

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Nowadays, Charlie stars on Garden Rescue

Whoever the guest chooses then gets to create the dream outdoor space. The show has proved hugely popular with viewers and has aired weekdays on BBC for over four years.

Charlie Dimmock personal life

Although Charlie is reportedly currently single, the presenter has had her brush with romance in the past. During the early nineties she met viticulturist John Mushet, with whom she settled down upon returning home.

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Although John referred to her as “the missus” during their relationship, the pair were never married and split in 2001 after Charlie had a fling with Ground Force microphone operator Andy Simmons.

On the prospects of love in the future, Charlie told the Daily Mail: “I’m too old now, certainly too old for marriage,

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