Stories / Events

Clover Hill's Michelin-Starred Chef Puts Family and Fine Dining on the Plate

Charlie Mitchell, NYC’s first-ever Black Michelin-starred chef is paying homage to his grandmother at our upcoming Greens event

Kristin Tice Studeman

February 28, 2023


Black and white photo of chef Charlie Mitchell cutting produce in the Clover Hill kitchen photo by Natalie Black
Photo: Natalie Black

As part of our Black History Month celebrations, we’re featuring stories of Black culinary professionals who are helping to shape America’s food landscape. Below, Kristin Tice Studeman spoke with 2023 James Beard Emerging Chef Award semifinalist Charlie Mitchell Clover Hill, digging into his cooking philosophy for the Brooklyn hot spot and the inspiration behind his upcoming JBF Greens dinner.


Clover Hill executive chef and co-owner Charlie Mitchell spends his evenings in the 700-square-foot restaurant’s tiny kitchen, whipping up an eight-course, French and new American–inspired tasting menu that recently earned the 30-year-old chef and his team a Michelin star and a James Beard Award semifinalist nod. The accolades are particularly impressive given that Mitchell and restaurateurs Clay Castillo and Gabriel Marino only opened their 26-seat, Brooklyn Heights restaurant for dinner service in March 2022 (the restaurant originally opened in December 2019, but quickly shut its doors due to the pandemic). The road to becoming New York City’s first Black, Michelin-starred chef, however, started well before Mitchell’s brief time in culinary school or in the kitchens of Eleven Madison Park and One White Street. It began way back in his grandma Johnnie Mae Mitchell’s kitchen, at the ripe age of four, with a humble, pecan coffee cake—the very first thing he ever baked with his grandma.

For Mitchell’s upcoming JBF Greens dinner (our Greens events are for foodies under 40 in New York City and Chicago) on March 13, it’s only fitting that he dreamed up a special three-course tasting menu that pays tribute to his grandmother, known as “Mrs. Mae,” and her knack for infusing even the most simple of dishes with intense flavors.

“She’s from Georgia, so her cooking style is very Southern—lots of collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, fried fish, and that type of thing,” says Mitchell, a Detroit native who started his cooking career in his hometown at the age of 19, before becoming a sous chef at Forest in Birmingham, Michigan, and later moving to New York City in 2016. “But what stuck with me the most is the way she seasoned food. She would brine things, smoke things, make stews and consommés and stocks, even if she was just cooking up collard greens. I feel like she just had a higher understanding than most people as to how to actually season food, and that is something I have carried with me into fine dining. I never want people to think that my food needs more salt, acid, or texture.”

His Greens dinner menu pays homage to Mrs. Mae by incorporating many of those ingredients and cooking techniques. From the seared day boat scallops with smoked potato to the black sea bass with collard greens, chicken confit and consommé, to Mrs. Mae’s sweet potato pie to finish, Mitchell has blended his fine dining background with Mrs. Mae’s homestyle cooking he grew up on. “We didn’t eat out too much when I was growing up,” he says. “Instead, what I really grew [accustomed] to, was the fellowship behind eating and cooking for each other at home. That’s when I saw that through cooking, you can show love to someone.”

Overhead photo of squash tart on white background photo by Natalie Black
The honey nut seasonal tart at Clover Hill (photo: Natalie Black)

Though the hyper-seasonal, constantly changing $135 tasting menu at Clover Hill draws more from French and new American inspirations in terms of the palate, Mitchell aims to channel the familiar, comforting feeling that a home-cooked meal offers.

“Charlie is really good at making food look simple,” says Castillo, who officially brought the chef into the Clover Hill family in November 2021, after Mitchell’s stints cooking in Washington, D.C. at Jônt with chef Ryan Ratino and as an executive sous chef at Bresca. “He is not going to just fill a dish with all the luxury ingredients he can find, like uni, caviar, and lobster, and do all these complicated things to them, just to be fancy. He will give you luxury ingredients, but he’s going to maximize the ingredients for what they are. It is so much harder to make what appears to the eye to be simple food.”

Castillo took a similar approach to the design of the restaurant, creating an inviting space in the landmarked, 19th-century building that’s intended to feel like the antithesis of many fine-dining restaurants that often seem stark and cold. Tucked away on a quiet street in Brooklyn, Clover Hill feels like you’re eating in someone’s cozy home, thanks to antiques, mirrors, and paintings that Castillo picked found at vintage shops and flea markets. “We’ll give you the fine-dining experience, without being really snobby about it,” he says.

Their fun, refreshing approach to fine dining has quickly caught the attention of diners and critics alike. Just a month after kicking off dinner service, the restaurant earned its first Michelin star. Mitchell was also awarded Michelin’s 2022 Young Chef Award, making him the only Black chef in history to receive this honor.

“Honestly, my initial reaction was a sigh of relief,” says Mitchell. “It’s just nice to spend so much time doing something and caring about something and knowing that it’s not for nothing.”

Despite all the positive feedback and recognition, he’s still working up the courage to cook for his toughest critic—his grandma.

“She still won’t give me the recipe for her sweet potato pie, so I kind of riffed on it and added components that I’ve experienced in the fine-dining world,” he says of his version of the infamous Mrs. Mae’s pie, the final dish on the Greens dinner menu. “I’ve never made it for her.  I don’t think I have the confidence to do that yet.”


Kristin Tice Studeman is a New York City-based writer and author of the cookbook Serving New York: For All The People Who Make NYC Dining Unforgettable. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, W Magazine, Vogue, and Coveteur. To learn more and get in touch, follow her on Instagram.