Sitthixay Ditthavong/AP
K.c. Blumm and Liza Hamm
November 05, 2013 02:15 PM

Renowned chef Charlie Trotter died on Tuesday at the age of 54.

The restaurateur was found unconscious and not breathing at his Chicago home by his son, Dylan, the Chicago Tribune reports. An ambulance was called and Trotter was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“We are incredibly shocked and deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of Charlie at our home in Lincoln Park. He was much loved and words can not describe how much he will be missed,” his wife, Rochelle, tells PEOPLE in a statement.

“Charlie was a trailblazer and introduced people to a new way of dining when he opened Charlie Trotter’s. His impact upon American cuisine and the culinary world at large will always be remembered. We thank you so much for your kind words, love and support. We appreciate the respect for our privacy as we work through this difficult time.

Trotter – who hosted a PBS cooking show in the ’90s and published more than a dozen cookbooks – closed his namesake restaurant last year and announced plans to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy.

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“I’ve always had a romantic vision that you can do anything you want at any time in your life,” he told the New Yorker. “What’s the worst that can happen? I can always be a cook.”

Trotter’s Michelin-starred restaurant, which opened in 1987, was a training ground for some of the country’s best-known chefs including MasterChef judge Graham Elliot.

“Charlie was an extreme father figure to me when it came to not just cooking, but life, and seeing things in a different way,” Elliot said. “I just can’t put into words how saddened I am by all of this. It’s a huge loss, not just personally, but for the culinary world.”

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