Charlie Mitchell is focused on making Brooklyn’s Clover Hill a comforting masterpiece — Andscape
Charlie Mitchell’s 34-seat Brooklyn restaurant, Clover Hill, reopened in early 2022 and received a Michelin star the same year — making Mitchell one of the few Black chefs in the country who holds that distinction.
“I love dishes with an act of discovery to them,” Mitchell said. “You don’t see everything until you really get into the dish. I like things that are fun to eat, with big, bold flavors and a playful feel. I like a mixture of textures, something that makes you think as you’re eating.”
Along with the Michelin honor, Mitchell was recently announced as a semifinalist for Emerging Chef by the James Beard Foundation. Born and raised in Detroit, Mitchell worked for three years in more casual Detroit restaurants, moving to New York in 2016 to work in fine dining.
Mitchell said moving to New York rapidly expanded his culinary worldview, partly because of the mix of cultures you can find in the boroughs. “You can get every kind of cuisine here and open up your mind to new flavors, new techniques, new ingredients,” he said. “I never really had the opportunity to pick up and go to Europe to train. New York offered that level of education, though.”
Owned by Clay Castillo and Gabriel Merino, Clover Hill reopened with Mitchell at the helm in early 2022. Clover Hill is rare in that the executive chef is a Black man and so is the sous chef. Max Guillaume has worked with Mitchell in various restaurants since 2017. “My experience working with Charlie has been collaborative in many ways,” Guillaume said. “He would approach me with an idea of a dish and genuinely ask me for my opinion. We are constantly bouncing ideas off each other to push the cuisine forward.
“One of my favorite things about working with Charlie is his consistency to craft. To work with a like-minded individual that is also a Michelin-starred Black chef is definitely motivating,” he said.
At Clover Hill, the sauces are the highlight – some of them taking up to three days to make, each layer of flavor laid delicately and patiently — such as the tapioca and ginger pureé that’s served with a fillet of Ōra King salmon or the clam broth. For Mitchell, mediocrity isn’t an option. “I want people to either love it or hate it,” Mitchell said. “I want them to test the food and say, ‘This is delicious’ or ‘It’s not my thing,’ But I never want someone to be in the middle. I never want it to be boring.”
Although the world of culinary stardom feels more and more disconnected from the restaurant, as chefs flock to become their own brand, Mitchell remains committed to focusing on hospitality. “I love the restaurant aspect of being a chef. I want to have a cookbook one day, but have it be named after a restaurant. I’ve always focused on the restaurant being a place where I develop everything. It helps for work-life balance, too. If I’m at home testing things and constantly doing things outside of the physical space of the restaurant, that’s too much. Some aspects of work, I try to leave here,” he said.
I visited Clover Hill after the staff had just come back from a weeklong break, during which Mitchell celebrated his recent engagement in Jamaica.
But Mitchell acknowledged that this restaurant-first path is increasingly difficult for other chefs to take, economically and mentally. “For chefs, it’s hard to get ownership. So going private has its financial appeal, but you have to work on your brand constantly,” Mitchell said. “And I think restaurants have a history of being very volatile and restaurant owners have a public history of not valuing the chef or staff enough. So, if you feel undervalued then the best you can do is step away. Restaurants can be a hyperaggressive environment, so I think it’s pushed a lot of people away.”
Receiving the Michelin star was a moment of great pride for Mitchell, but he’s most excited about how it opens up more creative avenues. “We have consistent business and people are so excited to check us out. Others in the industry are also excited to work with us, so we’re able to create cooler products and be more intentional with our sourcing.”
All of this, Mitchell says, is what will “breed longevity” for Clover Hill. “We want to bring a high level of experience and be taken seriously in the industry amongst our peers, but we also want it to be fun and unpretentious for our guests. At the end of it all though, we want people to know that you can come here and get one of the better meals in New York.”