Columbus Restaurant Pioneer Celebrates 20 Years, Continues To Grow

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UPDATED: Friday July 19, 2013 7:05 PM

Diners fill The Pearl in the Short North every night. It’s the newest gem in the Cameron Mitchell Restaurant Group.

“It's comfortable, the food is amazing, the drinks are great, we just always have the best time here,” said diner Kristen Hinshaw.

Hinshaw’s compliment is sure to please a company CEO, who has set a high bar for his restaurants.

Cameron Mitchell first realized his calling at age 18 while working at Max & Erma’s.

“I had an epiphany, time froze. I looked across the kitchen and said, ‘I want to do this the rest of my life. I want to be in the restaurant business.’ I went home that night, wrote out my goals and I woke my mom at 1 a.m. and said, ‘This is what I want to do with myself.’ And she was quite relieved,” explained Mitchell.

Mitchell said his mother was relieved because he admits to having a troubled youth. But he took his new passion and made his way up the food chain.

He opened his first restaurant, Cameron’s American Bistro, 20 years ago.

He met his wife, Molly, at about the same time. One of his restaurants is now named Molly Woo’s.

“We had the milk crates for bedside tables. She's seen me through thick and thin, through lean times.  It's been a great partnership,” said Mitchell.

This fall, they celebrate their success and their three children. They will celebrate the anniversary of their first restaurant.

It’s a notable milestone for longtime members of Mitchell’s executive team.

“Certainly, 20 years ago, we didn’t dream we’d be where we are now,” said Stacey Connaughton, the vice president of corporate affairs.

They now have dozens of restaurants across the nation.

Mitchell said that during the course of the journey, his passion for the food has grown into a greater passion for the business.

In crafting every new eating experience, Mitchell takes his palette and trusted crew on tasting trips. That included one for his latest endeavor, The Pearl.

“We traveled from the west coast to the east coast and ate at as many gastro pubs as we could,” said Mitchell. “We don't copy what we see out there, we get inspired by it.

If bringing out the best in the food pyramid is one key to his success, than another is putting his people first.

“The support we had to make this happen was second to none.  I couldn't have done this on my own,” said Peter Chapman, the executive chef of The Pearl.

Chapman admits that Mitchell makes dreams come true.

“We take care of our people, our people take care of our guests and our guests take care of the company,” said Mitchell.

It’s a company that Mitchell hopes will tickle taste buds for years to come.

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