the grub street diet

Chef Charlie Mitchell Eats a Tasting Menu Every Day

“We have 45 minutes to fix any and every issue that we can.”

Mitchell’s cooking at Clover Hill is defined by an emphasis on seafood and Japanese and French technique. Illustration: Margalit Cutler
Mitchell’s cooking at Clover Hill is defined by an emphasis on seafood and Japanese and French technique. Illustration: Margalit Cutler

Charlie Mitchell has been cooking since he was 6 years old. “I grew up in a fairly large family on both my mom and my dad’s side,” he says of his childhood in Detroit. “Cooking was something that we did for any reason — good, bad, or sad.” His cooking career has been marked by stops inside the high-caliber kitchens of fine-dining destinations such as Betony and Eleven Madison Park. The training paid off: In 2022, Mitchell became the first Black chef in New York to earn a Michelin star for his food at the 20-seat Clover Hill in Brooklyn Heights. To maintain quality, Mitchell goes through his tasting menu each night — yet still finds himself fighting off the occasional craving for grocery-store sushi, too.

Tuesday, January 23
Tuesday is like our Monday at the restaurant, so the morning is always a bit chaotic. We’re pretty much building everything from the ground up: There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of orders coming in, a lot of things on the stove.

I like to eat fairly light on crazy days so that nothing slows me down. I typically start the day with some warm water with lemon to get going. I started this probably within the last six months. I try not to have coffee until I get to work, so I don’t have too much. The first one of the day is usually between 10 and 11.

When I’m in the restaurant, it’s all water and coffee until the family meal at 3:15 p.m.: chicken, rice, and salad. The cooks make the family meal, and we all eat together in the dining room. Every now and then I’ll help with that, but it’s usually the cooks. Chef Grace, my junior sous-chef, makes the family-meal plan.

We have the family meal, then we get back into the kitchen around 3:30 or 3:45. I try not to eat too much, because we have the full menu tasting every day at 4:45 p.m. — that’s dinner for me. We set up the entire kitchen: Get ready for service, cook and plate every single menu item from start to finish, and taste it. Sometimes it’s just myself tasting it, and sometimes it’s my sous-chef and me — it depends on how crazy the day is. But I eat the whole menu every day before we open up.

Wednesday, January 24
I had a couple of meetings. I knew I needed at least a small breakfast so that I could be friendly to people. It works. It stops you from feeling hangry and overcaffeinated. I try to make coffee at home and then once I get to work, so I don’t spend too much money on it. At home, I like to make a Keurig cup. After two coffees, I decided to have some La Fermière vanilla yogurt and a pear.

Family meal was balsamic-glazed chicken, roasted carrots, rice, and salad. I eat rice every day; nine times out of ten, we’ll have rice with whatever we make. When I’m eating at home, my ideal quick meal is salmon in the air fryer, maybe with kimchee or broccoli or some sort of green, with rice.

Then, it’s the tasting menu again at 4:45. If something’s off, this is when we fix it. We’re tasting throughout the day, so usually it’s something small, like a purée or something that just needs a little bit more salt. It gives us a chance to fix it before we open at 5:30. We have 45 minutes to fix any and every issue that we can. We’ve had some dramatic moments, but for the most part, it’s like, “Okay, a little more salt here, a little more vinegar here, reduce the sauce if it’s really off.”

Thursday, January 25
The day started off spicy because I had a cook call out. I knew I was in for a long one. I stopped for yogurt and a banana and grabbed a bodega coffee. Every now and then I crave one. It has a certain taste to it — it’s not that it’s great, it’s just that it’s a New York thing to get a cheap $2 bodega coffee.

We had a bit more fun with the family meal today because we were settling into the week. It was a chicken-salad sandwich and Lay’s potato chips. Plain Lay’s potato chips are my all-time favorite. It’s the saltiest, crispiest chip. My chip ranking is: plain Lay’s and then everything else. Nothing comes close.

Lately, I’ve been pretty focused on a lot of the sauces at the restaurant. How can we build cool flavors, dope flavors deep down? That’s been my recent obsession. We do lobster bouillon–based sauce, and a vegetable sauce with rutabaga as a base for one of the fish courses, so those two have been the most interesting sauces on this current menu.

Friday, January 26
It was a regular morning — no breakfast. Just water and coffee. I also knew I’d be eating a big dinner because I had a friend in town from Detroit that I hadn’t seen in over a year.

Family meal was taco day! That’s always a fun one. We had chicken tacos with guac, pickled onions, cilantro, onion, and pico.

I cut out of work a bit early to take my friend to visit another friend’s restaurant, Hav & Mar in Chelsea. We had ceviche, seared scallops, crab-and-shrimp pasta, and fried chicken. Definitely slapped. To finish off our night, 37-year-old whiskey, because my friend loves good whiskey. I would say I’m a whiskey person, too, but these days, it’s more whiskey and wine, because I’m at work all the time. But definitely whiskey over tequila or something like that.

Saturday, January 27
I stayed out a bit too late, but somehow woke up starving. I stopped for grocery-store sushi, and yes, I 100 percent regretted it. It was kind of a disaster. First of all, it was the morning. It was the first thing in my stomach. I had shrimp tempura and spicy tuna, and it tasted kind of stale. I don’t know if it was the coffee or the spicy aioli or whatever it was — but sometimes you just have a craving and you gotta go for it. I crave sushi a lot. My favorite sushi place right now is Sushi Yasuda. Hot wings are another craving, and French fries. I don’t have a favorite place — I’ll eat French fries anywhere. But there’s a famous place in Flatbush — a Chinese place known for their chicken wings and fries. My first time going, they asked me if I wanted ketchup and barbecue sauce, and I said, Yeah, sure, thank you, thinking they’d put it in the bag. When I got home and opened my French fries, I saw they’d put the ketchup and barbecue sauce all over the fries, and it was this steamed, soggy mess. I was already home, so I didn’t want to take them back. That was a tragic moment for me.

Family meal was barbecue: pork, mac and cheese, and potato salad. It was a great way to finish off our week and head into Saturday night service.

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