The last year has been red hot for Chef Charlie Mitchell, and not just because he spends his days in the kitchen. Mitchell’s restaurant, Clover Hill, took home ONE MICHELIN Star at last year’s MICHELIN Guide Ceremony, and he’s been making history—and headlines—ever since. Chef Mitchell earned the Young Chef Award last year too, and he’s making inroads as the first Black chef in New York to earn a coveted Star. Over the last year, Mitchell has appeared on The Today Show, MSNBC, and been featured in countless publications and podcasts.
We caught up with him recently to talk all things Star-related.
When did you first learn about the MICHELIN Star?
Until I got my first fine dining gig (in Detroit), I didn’t understand the world of chefs and fine dining, but those chefs there, some of my good friends still, told me about MICHELIN Stars and James Beard, and what true fine dining was. Once I started reading about it, I realized this was the ultimate level…I felt like it was the only way to attach my journey to as a chef.
Tell us about how you came to your restaurant, Clover Hill.
At that time, I wasn’t looking for a head chef job. I wasn’t necessarily done working for other chefs, but I just wanted to get back to New York City (Mitchell was in D.C. helping to open Two MICHELIN Star Jônt).
Clay from Clover Hill reached out. We had a meeting and our goals aligned and that was the first time I was like, “Am I ready to work for myself?” It was more me challenging myself to take on a challenge. The energy was right, and Clover Hill seemed like a great opportunity. It wasn’t me saying I was done working for other chefs and I’m ready to do my own thing. It was more that I was given the opportunity, so let’s go for it.
After closing due to the pandemic, Clover Hill reopened in February 2022, now with you in charge. You were only open for a little over a year before receiving the MICHELIN Star. Did you suspect you might be awarded a Star?
Absolutely not. MICHELIN reached out to us in August to ask for pictures because you’re adding restaurants to the Guide throughout the year. That’s the first time we thought – we’re added to the Guide. We were happy that we were being acknowledged and our initial thought was that we wouldn’t get a Star the first year, but at least we’re on their radar and maybe we’ll get one next year.
What about the night of the MICHELIN Guide Ceremony? What was that like for you?
I got the Young Chef award. I was standing there listening, thinking this sounds interesting – I wonder who is going to get this – and then that was a very humbling moment to stand in front of my peers. Then, Clover Hill getting the Star was just crazy. Just crazy—that’s the only way to describe it. To achieve a MICHELIN Star was just bananas.
When did it sink in?
Never. It doesn’t really sink in. Not yet at least.
Were you aware that it was also a historic win?
No! One of my friends posted on Instagram that I was the first Black chef in New York City to get a MICHELIN Star and I had no idea at that time. I’ve learned to embrace it over time.
How about the media attention? Were you expecting that?
No! I was grateful and humbled and surprised that so many media reached out.
Have you seen the MICHELIN Star effect? What kind of impact has the MICHELIN Star had?
It’s many ways. Number one as a business, we got busier. We get tourists, people who are intrigued by the Guide. It changed our demographic of diner 100 percent. We get people who want to eat with us as opposed to people who may have stumbled across us. That is number one that the business is going to survive. It put us on the map. And, number two, from a chef standpoint, it helps you get the best. Cooks are very choosy. They want to see a chef get validated before they apply. Immediately afterwards, we got a totally different level of chef that wants to work with us. It’s changed a lot.
Is there anything new happening at Clover Hill?
It’s only our second year. We’re not planning any changes. Who we are and what we want to be and do are still the same.