Charlie Mitchell is the Executive Chef (and co-owner) of the Michelin-starred Clover Hill (@cloverhillbk).
For Charlie Mitchell, the path to being one of the top chefs in Brooklyn — itself one of the world's top food destinations — began in Detroit. Born and raised there, Charlie credits his grandmother with his passion for cooking. In 2016, at the urging of the chef he worked for at the time, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in it. And what a career, with jobs in the kitchens at Eleven Madison Park, One White Street and more. He has since been named a semifinalist for the James Beard Award: Emerging Chef, and is the city’s first (and only) Black Michelin-starred chef, as well as the second Black executive chef (a role which, in larger kitchens, often comes with more managerial responsibilities) in the country to receive the honor. He is now the Executive Chef at his own restaurant, Clover Hill, with his partners Clay Castillo and Gabriel Merino. It’s tucked into a cozy space in one of Brooklyn Heights’ well-maintained red brick buildings, and frequented by the neighborhood’s even better-maintained residents.
So, your grandma inspired you to cook: what was your favorite dish of hers?
My favorite was probably her sweet potato pie. It was fairly classic, but somehow hers always just tasted better.
Can you remember the first thing you ever cooked for yourself?
I used to cook for me and my mom when I was mad young. I can’t really say what I remember making for just myself, but I think the first thing I started cooking for us consistently was spaghetti and red sauce.
How did you end up making your way to New York?
I’m from Detroit. That’s where I got my foundation, but the chef I worked for [then] pushed all of us to go to a major city and work in larger restaurants if we wanted to take it seriously. I had a friend living in New York at the time, and they convinced me to come here instead of California. I fell in love with the city’s restaurant culture — how competitive it was, how good it was. People here are really dedicated to cooking as a profession and a craft.
What’s your favorite spot to eat out at in the city?
Besides [Clover Hill]? Zou Zou’s, in Hudson Yards. It’s a Mediterranean place, very Manahttan-y, kind of business-y, but me and my fiancée go there almost once a month to get the Moroccan fried chicken, pita and dips.
What does it mean to you to be New York’s first and only Black Michelin-starred chef?
[Laughs] Well, I mean…in short, it means a lot. I embrace it. Representation matters. It’s nice to open that door for other people behind me and give them something to look up to. That’s what I get out of it the most; it’s an honor and humbling and crazy that I inspire anybody. I’m like, “Who, me?” But, you know, I take it seriously, and I want to lead by example.
How do you want people to feel when they eat at Clover Hill?
It’s meant for people to feel comfortable, to feel like they’re at home…we want it to feel like a fine dining experience from the perspective of the food, but relaxed and welcoming. A lot of fine dining makes you feel like you need to put on a suit, it’s quiet, you can’t talk or joke and laugh with your partner. We wanted the complete opposite…having a great meal and wine doesn’t need to be stuffy.
Is there a food trend you’d like to see retired?
When people were doing those caviar bumps in restaurants. I saw that and I was like, I hate the world [laughs]. That shit’s crazy. I hope that’s stopped.
How about fashion? Are there any fashion trends you follow (or explicitly disregard)?
Growing up, my mom used to dress me a lot. She’s a little old school, and always said you gotta match brands — if you had a Gucci belt, you needed Gucci shoes. I thought that made no sense, because what did it matter if the styles went together? So I’ll purposely always mix and match brands now.
What’s your #1 dinner party tip?
Bring good wine and make sure the food’s hot. People skip that, they try and cook too much, and when it’s finally time to eat the food’s gone cold.
Need an idea for the next time you’re hosting (or a lazy date night)? Try Charlie’s easy Roasted Salmon recipe, below.
1 large salmon filletCure: 1 cup each salt and sugar (more or less depending on the size of your fillet)