Charlie Trotter pulls the plug on restaurant auction

Charlie Trotter had most of the contents of his landmark, recently shuttered restaurant up for auction Wednesday, and by the end of the day, he still had most of the contents of his landmark, recently shuttered restaurant.

The mercurial chef ended the auction about one-third of the way through the items, Kevin Bunte, co-owner of the Elgin-based Bunte Auction Services, said Thursday.

"We were just getting into the dishes,” he said.

The Chef's Table, where guests could dine in the kitchen and watch the chefs at work (and which brought in $400,000 a year in sales, Trotter told the crowd), sold for $400, he said, but none of the other 30 dining tables drew a bid. Nor did any of the 115 Viennese Secessionist ebony-framed, Josef Hoffmann-upholstered chairs, which required minimum bids of $200-400 apiece. The highest-priced item sold was a Viennese Secessionist settee that went for $2,000.

Bunte estimated that about 10 percent of the lots put up for bid — which also included small sculptures, decorative items and framed photographs and menus — actually sold. The restaurant’s plates, stemware, pots, pans, and kitchen utensils and equipment never went on the block. Bunte said about 60 people were present, with some bidders online, for an auction that listed more than 1,500 lots.

“Just so you know,” Trotter said in his introduction before bidding began, “if the things don’t go for what I think they’re going to go for, I will buy them myself. OK? That’s how we work here.”

Trotter also said of the auction house: “We’ve knocked heads a couple of times.”

The auction-house co-owner said that over the past week and up through Wednesday morning, Trotter had talked about possibly postponing the auction. The chef, who shut his restaurant’s doors after 25 years on Aug. 31, pulled the plug on the sale sometime after 4 p.m., Bunte said. (It has started around noon, about an hour late.)

“We had nothing to say about it,” Bunte said.

As for whether the rest of the auction will be rescheduled — and whether his company might still be involved — Bunte said: "We’re not sure about that yet. We still have to talk with him."

Wednesday’s auction contrasted with the recently completed Christie's auction of Trotter’s wine cellar collection, which grossed more than $1.1 million via a live auction last month in New York and online bidding that ended Dec. 4. Bunte said Wednesday’s auction marked a change of pace for his company as well.

"Just last month we had our best sale ever," Bunte said. "It kind of evens out."

Trotter, who escorted this reporter out of the auction preview at the restaurant Tuesday, did not respond to an interview request.

Tribune photographer Michael Tercha contributed to this story.

mcaro@tribune.com
Twitter @MarkCaro

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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