Q&A With Brian Hinshaw Of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

Brian Hinshaw is the senior vice president of food and beverage at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. The brand has 32 award-winning restaurants under 15 different concepts, and the nationally-acclaimed Ocean Prime brand, serving more than 2.5 million guests with sales of $300 million.

While attending at Columbus State, Hinshaw was Chef Apprentice to the 13th top Master Chef in the Country – and the only Certified Master Chef in Ohio – Chef Hartmut Handke. Hinshaw began his tenure at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in May 1999 when he was hired as executive sous chef at Mitchell's Ocean Club.

He became executive chef of Ocean Club, then Molly Woo's, and M before being promoted to regional chef in 2006. Hinshaw became vice president of culinary development in 2009, and then transitioned into his current position as senior vice president of food and beverage in 2016.

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How did you get your start in the restaurant business?

At age 16, I got a work permit and knocked on the door of McDonald's. I started at McDonald's. My mom and dad were awesome cooks and my mom was great at baking as well. She ended up doing a lot of cake decorating on the side. So, there was always these aromas and the culinary craft at home that I loved at an early age.

I joined the army soon after high school and the only position they had available was to cook, so I cooked in the army for six years. It was the Army National Guard. That gave me the ability to put myself through college. At the time, there was this new culinary school in Columbus [Ohio] starting up at Columbus State Community College.

What was one of the biggest lessons you learned as an apprentice to Chef Hartmut Handke?

I started my apprenticeship with him in 1983. He liked that I had been in the military and that I had some discipline. Because he was tough – Handke was a tough dude. I learned early on that you had to do things the way he wanted you to do it. His fundamentals were just amazing.

I had to put my head down and build skill – how to chop, slice, and dice. I learned, by standing next to him, how to be prepared and be ready. He was just so precise – still is. He's one of the greatest cooks I've ever worked with.

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Your current role doesn't take you into the kitchen as much anymore. What is it like?

Now, for me, it's not about me, but my people. I have a lot of regional chefs who report to me. It's morphed into a different role. I have a lot of influence with the team when it comes to concepting new restaurants. I'll take a team and travel to get inspiration for new restaurants. We have 15 concepts and we're always making sure we stay on point with the trends and staying within the concept.

I'm still a huge influence on a lot of chefs' lives. I'm in a kitchen daily, but not as the executive chef. They still see me as someone they can get guidance from. It's about teaching and coaching and helping them any way I can. I do miss [cooking in the kitchen], but I love what I'm doing now.

What is your take on food trends? Do you take them into account when it comes to creating new concepts?

I don't really like the word trend; "trendy" means it's already passé. For us, it's more about what are the constants. What do we constantly do day-in and day-out that makes us great? We want to be relevant – that's more the word I would use – than trendy. Trendy is more applies to the bar scene. We're more about being consistent, offering great quality food, stay on point and stay current.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.