Renowned eastern North Carolina pitmaster Ed Mitchell has closed his restaurant, Ed Mitchell’s Que, at Durham’s American Tobacco Campus.
This is Mitchell’s second stymied business venture in the Triangle but he has hopes of reopening Que in a larger space.
In a phone interview Monday evening, Mitchell said, “We’re going to focus on getting a location that will allow me to have adequate catering and private dining.”
Mitchell explained that his Durham restaurant did not have any space for private dining for corporate events and only had capacity to cook one whole hog at a time, which was not enough to meet the demands of the restaurant and catering operation. “I fell in love with the space,” said Mitchell, adding that he should have had a better understanding of the space’s limitations compared to his business needs.
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Mitchell got his start in the barbecue business in the 1990s by transforming his family’s grocery store in Wilson into a nationally-known barbecue destination. He lost his restaurant in 2004 in a fight with the bank and was convicted of failing to pay state taxes related to the business.
Mitchell, who has always been written about extensively by national media, returned to national prominence in 2007 by partnering with Raleigh developer Greg Hatem. They opened The Pit barbecue restaurant in downtown Raleigh. However, Mitchell and Hatem split ways in 2011. Hatem went onto open a second location of The Pit in Durham and Mitchell found new business partners and opened Que in Durham last year.
On Monday, Mitchell promised to return to the Triangle: “We’ll be right back in the running shortly. We have our eyes on a couple of spaces.”
Mitchell confirmed Monday that a note that was making the rounds on Twitter Monday had been posted on the restaurant’s door. It said: “As of today, February 14, 2015, Ed Mitchell’s ‘Que has closed at 359 Blackwell Street in Durham, N.C. Mr. Mitchell has determined that the space simply did not provide adequate space for catering and large production hog cooking necessary to execute the complete vision for Ed Mitchell’s ‘Que concept. Ed has plans to relocate the concept to another site in the near future. During this transition, he will continue to focus on introducing new audiences to eastern North Carolina BBQ via festivals, media and culinary competitions.”
The note continued: “American Tobacco Campus understands the reasons behind Ed’s decision and supports his desire to relocate. American Tobacco will begin exploring other culinary concepts for this special space with a host of restaurateurs interested in the proximity to Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham Performing Arts Center, the residents and world class businesses on campus, and downtown Durham.”