When Charlie Mitchell — executive chef of the newly-starred Clover Hill restaurant in Brooklyn Heights — learned he was the first and only black chef to run a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York, he was surprised, but it didn’t matter. only intensify. his professional ambition.
“I always used to say I wanted to be the first black leader with three stars because I never realized none of us even had one star,” Mitchell said. “I thought it was normal! But when I learned that I would be the first [or second nationally] I thought that was crazy, although I can think of a number of reasons. […] Now you feel special enough to be someone people can look up to.
Clover Hill opened in February 2022 and serves upscale seafood and produce-focused American cuisine with dishes like Maine uni topped with caviar, as part of a 175-course tasting menu. $. When the restaurant received a Michelin star this fall, Mitchell became not only the first black executive chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City, but also the second black chef nationally to earn the accolade.
Mitchell grew up in Detroit and got her culinary training on the job at restaurants in her hometown instead of going to culinary school. After deciding he wanted to get into the food business, Mitchell left Detroit, as the city really wasn’t a hotbed of high-end culinary pursuits, then started working in restaurants in San Francisco, New York. and Washington, DC, before coming back to New York one last time. At this point in his career, Mitchell has an impressive resume, with Sous Chef and Executive Sous Chef positions under his belt at Eleven Madison Park, Jônt, Bresca, Villanelle and One White Street.
When Clover Hill co-founder Clay Castillo asked him to lead the Brooklyn restaurant’s kitchen, it became Mitchell’s first-ever executive chef position where he was truly in charge of menu creation and execution. .
“I came back to One White Street for a short time as executive sous chef, but I was really ready to be on my own instead of executing someone else. [menu vision],” he said. “Clay texted me when I was ready to quit my job. It was really a matter of timing. […] Some owners will tell you exactly what to do, but with Clay, we chose everything together, from wine glasses to ingredients.
When asked how Clover Hill was able to earn a Michelin star so quickly after opening, Mitchell attributed the success to a good PR team, a New York Times article and their policy of integrity, even when the restaurant was slow to foot traffic.
“I remember we had to close a few Wednesdays and Thursdays because we had no coverage,” he said. “It was hard […] But we felt we had a great product and we made sure to support it whether we had two nights out to eat a night, or now when we have 60.”
Mitchell’s modesty might attribute Clover Hill’s success to good publicity, but his ingredient-centric outlook is the heart of the restaurant. Mitchell creates every dish on the Clover Hill menu backwards: starting with a local, seasonal ingredient and creating a dish around it, rather than the other way around. Right now, mushrooms dominate his cooking, including lobster and trumpet mushrooms, as he tries every day to “cook what the Earth tells us is in season.”
But as one of only two black chefs nationally recognized by the Michelin guide, is he alone at the top? Mitchell said he hopes to be an example for other young chefs of color in the industry so that reaching the top of the restaurant industry may seem more attainable to other young black chefs in Detroit like him.
“I think a lot of chefs of color, maybe they step in the door as a sous chef or something and they’ll open up something more casual in their hometown,” did he declare. “And maybe they don’t just stick to fine dining. I don’t think I’m the first black chef [in the fine dining world] […] I just stayed the course and waited for my opportunity.
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