Come dine with NYC’s first Michelin-starred Black chef, Charlie Mitchell

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  • Published on February 20, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Culture

Charlie Mitchell, of Clover Hill in Brooklyn Heights, becomes the first and only Black Michelin-starred chef in New York City.

Black excellence is on display yet again as the world of fine dining gets shaken up by a New York City chef. Chef Charlie Mitchell, the winner of Michelin’s 2022 New York Young Chef Award, was interviewed by TODAY’s Craig Melvin on Friday when Melvin paid a visit to Mitchell’s Michelin-starred restaurant Clover Hill in Brooklyn Heights.

Mitchell is only the second Black executive chef in the nation to receive the honor and the first Black chef in New York City’s history to reach that level.

Melvin visited the restaurant in Brooklyn Heights to talk to Mitchell about his success and, of course, to sample some of the fine cuisine that helped make Mitchell a trailblazer.

“I wanted to always, you know, plant my feet here and be a serious New York City chef,” Mitchell told Melvin. “So that was always a goal of mine.”

“And look at you now,” Melvin said. “Dreams come true.”

Mitchell is now praised for things other than fine dining. The chef of the well-known Brooklyn restaurant, who was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, got his start in the kitchen from his grandmother. He elaborated on a particular aspect of her cooking style that stood out.

“I think the thing that stuck with me the most is she used to do this whole fry fish, like whole fry bass all the time when I was younger,” Mitchell said. “I think that stood out the most.”

Mitchell spent a brief period of time in culinary school, but he preferred the on-the-job learning experience and found a job online. He mentioned that he found his first “real” job by searching online for local eateries.

“And in that kitchen is where I was like, ‘Wow, like I love the way they work,” Mitchell told the outlet. “I love how professional it is, using ingredients like I’ve never had, I’ve never learned about.’”

Mitchell honed his skills over the course of several years at prestigious establishments like Eleven Madison Park, a New American fine dining restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. It was his time spent in the kitchen that brought him to a verdant residential street in the Brooklyn’s Heights neighborhood.

Just after Clover Hill first opened a year ago, he was promoted to executive chef and given the task of developing the restaurant’s first menu. At the moment, the eight-course tasting menu prepared by Mitchell’s staff features dishes like king crab tartlet, Long Island fluke, and Spanish octopus, but this list is subject to change as the best seasonal ingredients become available.

Mitchell and his staff were also commended for their efforts to achieve culinary excellence. In its first year of operation, Clover Hill was awarded a Michelin star, and Mitchell was named best young chef by the same organization.

“That was a complete surprise when they announced that and I was just humbled, you know?” Mitchell expressed. At the time he received it, Mitchell was unaware of the historic accomplishment. Given how many people came before him, especially in New York City, he assumed that it had already been achieved by someone. He never considered the possibility that he might be the first or second to actually do anything.

“Why do you think there aren’t more people who look like us, as executive chefs and fine dining restaurants like this?” Melvin asked.

Mitchell says that one reason is that working in the culinary industry is the kind of career that requires many long days and long nights; and another is that young cooks typically make less money than those in entry-level jobs in other industries.

“You don’t make a lot of money as a young cook. You know so I think a lot of times we’re like chasing a very different American dream then to kind of put up with these aggressive environments that are often lead by people who don’t look like us”, he said.

Mitchell still has more greatness in him. He is a James Beard Award: Emerging Chef semifinalist.


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