When football star Mitch Omer walked off the field in frustration and gave up his full scholarship at Iowa State to the chagrin of his furious father, he was understandably told “don’t come home.” Thus he kept going, past Des Moines, past Minneapolis, and way up into the north woods of Ely to forge a new life. Grabbing the first job offered (and lying about his lack of experience), he started cooking at age 19.
Lucky for him, he was good. “But it was just a job,” he explains, until he met world-renowned chef Jacques Pepin…friend of Julia Child, author of numerous cookbooks, and chef to several French Presidents. Watching Jacques in action “lit me on fire,” says Mitch. “That’s when I realized good cooking combines my love of art and science, and at that point, there was absolutely no stopping me.” Omer then maniacally studied everything about the culinary world he could get his hands on.
Fervently working up to 3 jobs at a time, he gained priceless experience under many great chefs near and far, honing his kitchen skills while trying to balance a crazy home life that included three children, two ex wives, irresponsible drug and alcohol use, subsequent punishments, and (finally) a proper diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder…which thankfully explained his manic-obsessive-depressive behavior.
In his 40’s and finally on an even keel, Omer sold almost all of his possessions (and his new wife Cyn’s house, she kindly reminds him), snatched his longtime “partner in crime” Steve Meyer, and opened Hell’s Kitchen in a tiny shotgun space one block from the current location in downtown Minneapolis.
Sadly, Mitch suddenly passed away in December 2015, but his legacy remains in place, his vision was already written for the next 20 years (yes, really), and his heart still beats in the restaurant that will never (ever) forget his bigger-than-life, tender and amazingly generous heart.