In 2022, Gerald Sombright said, “I was the first Black man in America to earn a Michelin Star and I want to make sure I’m not the last,” after earning “the most coveted culinary accolade in the world” for his Orlando based Knife & Spoon restaurant.
Fortunately, Sombright’s wish became a reality this year when Charlie Mitchell was bestowed the honor. He 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, according to the Today Show.
Mitchell helms the restaurant Clover Hill located in Brooklyn Heights, which remarkably earned this prestigious award during its first year of operation after opening its doors last February. Mitchell also won Michelin’s 2022 New York Young Chef Award.
In an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News last year, Mitchell spoke on his aspirations of becoming “the first Black chef with three stars because I had never realized that none of us even had one star.”
While this certainly is a moment for celebration—it seems long overdue. New York’s Michelin Guide has received criticism for its “lack of Black representation on its list in a city that is home to the world’s largest Black population of any city outside Africa.”
Mitchell himself was surprised about this being a milestone event, telling Craig Melvin on TODAY, “You just assume that someone has already done this, you know, it doesn’t cross your mind that you may be the first or second to do really anything, especially here in New York City.”
The chef who was raised in Detroit, certainly has come a long way from his days spent cooking with his grandmother, which he credits for being the inspiration for his passion for cooking and food, “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.”
But as he told Melvin, “I wanted to always, you know, plant my feet here and be a serious New York City chef.”
After spending a few months in culinary school, Mitchell realized “he preferred the on-the-job learning experience” and honed his skills for years working as a sous chef and then being promoted to executive sous chef at fine dining establishments in New York, like Eleven Madison Park.
In 2022, Mitchell was brought on board by Clay Castillo, co-founder of Clover Hill, who asked Mitchell to join as executive chef, and now Mitchell is a co-owner of the restaurant.
The world is sure to hear more of Mitchell, and as the Miami Herald aptly writes, “Mitchell still has more greatness in him. He is a James Beard Award: Emerging Chef semifinalist,” another prominent honor bestowed in the culinary field which “recognizes exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.”