DISHING WITH CAMERON MITCHELL
Written by Amelia Jeffers
Photos Courtesy Cameron Mitchell Restaurants
Coming off of a 25th anniversary in 2018, renowned restaurant visionary Cameron Mitchell is having another big year. His eponymous family of restaurants has launched two new concepts: Lincoln Social Rooftop and Del Mar SoCal Kitchen, which has been so well-received that plans for Del Mar’s expansion to other markets are already underway including Naples, Florida. Students of the School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts at Columbus State Community College are walking the halls of their new home this semester, with the opening of Mitchell Hall, for which Mitchell provided the lead gift of $2.5 million. And, finishing touches are being completed at the highly anticipated Budd Dairy Food Hall, set to open in early 2020 as “a chef driven incubator that provides opportunities for culinary adventurers to refine their concept, grow their business and build a loyal following all while sharing space with other like minded entrepreneurs.”
Mitchell recently spoke to our team about his company's success and what inspires him to keep stirring the pot of the restaurant industry.
Sophisticated Living: Your company has grown to encompass a wide range of dining concepts. How has your role in development and innovation evolved?
Cameron Mitchell: When I started Cameron's American Bistro in 1993, I was responsible for all development and innovation. Today, we have grown to 37 award-winning restaurants under 16 different concepts. I am grateful to now have a stellar development team in place who collaborates with me daily to ensure we are always looking five steps ahead and continually coming up with creative concepts that will appeal to our guests. This insightful group of professionals share my vision and are equally as committed to pushing the envelope of restaurant innovation.
SL: Do you have a favorite concept?
CM: I always say my favorite concept is the next one. Currently, my favorite is Del Mar SoCal Kitchen in the Short North Arts District since it just opened. Of course, as our company continues to grow, I have new favorites on the horizon.
SL: What do you see as the common thread among all of the Cameron Mitchell restaurants?
CM: The common thread that binds all of our restaurants is our focus on providing genuine hospitality to our guests and our unique associate-first culture plays a significant role in our ability to deliver that promise. We put our associates first in everything we do. I find that when you take care of your associates, they will take care of your guests, who will then take care of you. We like to say we “don't just walk the walk. We run the walk”. Many people believe that when you choose a career in the restaurant business, you are choosing a career of long hours and low pay, with a poor quality of life. CMR has debunked this idea by building a restaurant company for its people, by its people.
SL: What are your thoughts on how the restaurant scene in Columbus has changed since you started?
CM: When I started Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in 1993, Columbus was very much a "meat and potatoes" city. Since then, many restaurateurs have come along and, collectively, we've changed the landscape of Columbus dining. Columbus is evolving as a culinary destination and has a number of inspiring and creative chefs and restaurateurs who are at the forefront of national food trends. With the addition of Mitchell Hall at Columbus State Community College and the upcoming Budd Dairy Food Hall in Italian Village, Columbus' growing reputation will only be enhanced in the coming years. Columbus is no longer an "under the radar" foodie scene. We are a thriving and exciting culinary and hospitality center.
SL: You made a significant gift to Columbus State Community College. What does it mean to you to be able to model serious success to aspiring young chefs?
CM: As our company continues to grow with new restaurants and concepts, I am equally as focused on helping the restaurant leaders of tomorrow succeed. Being able to help create and develop Mitchell Hall at Columbus State has been a dream come true. I am very excited to be on this incredible journey. It is an honor to give back to the community that has embraced our company for more than 25 years and provided the foundation for thousands of our associates to build meaningful and rewarding hospitality careers. Mitchell Hall will be the best in its class, which is thrilling. I am looking forward to seeing all the students' future successes.
Editor's Note: I recently had the pleasure of dining al fresco at Del Mar SoCal Kitchen on a crisp pre-fall evening. Between the people-watching, the mod, beachy vibe of the restaurant, and the fresh, innovative menu, it is now firmly atop the goto list for my friends and me.
A definite departure from other Cameron Mitchell concepts, Del Mar SoCal Kitchen isn't formulaic. Like the décor, the eclectic menu incorporates culinary cues from the multi- cultural aesthetic of southern California. From the Fried Oysters appetizer (the light tempura and gentle texture even converted my oyster-averse friends) to the “Ice” menu of raw and smoked fish, the Japanese influence is beautifully enhanced with the spiciness of the Mexican tradition. In addition to the oysters, we sampled the Tuna Poke on a base of avocado, with pineapple, serrano pepper, and guava vinaigrette alongside the Peeky Toe Crab, which is a zesty and cravable crab dip with Kewpie mayo, and Sriracha Togarashi served on ice with a variety of housemade chips.
The Potato Bread starter is a yummy take-off on Bing Bread, an Asian inspired dense potato bread packed with bacon and served with sour cream butter.
Among the entrees, the 40 Yolk Tagliatelle was my unsung hero of the selection. The rich egg noodles offer a full mouth experience with a delectable Forrest Mushroom, butter and parmesan sauce. The Beef Chow Fun seems straight from Chinatown (though it is actually straight from the dedicated wok station in the back of house) with flank steak, broccolini, bean sprouts and ginger garlic sauce. The Crispy Skate packs a plethora of flavor and texture into a single dish with a generously tempura-ed skate fish mounded atop a crispy base of colorful small potatoes, spicy Fresno Chili, tangy Remoulade, and sweet Black Pepper Honey.
The Handhelds menu offers a Wagyu Beef option for the burger, and the simply-prepared steak certainly speaks for itself. Same with the Lobster Roll, both served with a generous heap of thick-cut french fries.
When it came time for dessert (for the sake of journalism, of course!), we tried them all, though any one is very shareable. The Coconut on the Halfshell is hugely under-appreciated when reading the menu. In real life, it was my favorite, comprised of creamy, decadent coconut sorbet tightly packed into a coconut shell with lightly toasted coconut curls as garnish. The Hawaiian Shaved Ice is a lot richer than one might imagine, with an almost messy and very fun, over-sized portion packed full of sweet pineapple and topped with milk cookie crumbles.
Open for dinner seven days a week and brunch on Saturday and Sunday, Del Mar SoCal Kitchen is located at 705 N. High Street.
For more information and reservations:
Located on the ninth floor but with the entrance next door at 711 North High Street, Lincoln Social accurately boasts spectacular views of the city and a near-constant line of patrons patiently waiting for a seat. The 21+ space is open Tuesday through Friday starting a 4pm and at 1pm on Saturday and Sunday.
For more information: