Chef Michael Mina is an artist, a true pioneer in the industry. With over 20 years and 19 restaurants under his belt as a chef, Mina has worked with every culinary technique under the sun. Oh, and did we mention he has two Michelin stars and isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Chef Michael Mina this month for the 7th edition of A&H Magazine. Bon Appétit!
In America, cooking is stereotypically done by women. Do you see this changing? We feel men are missing out on the joy of cooking.
Professionally, I think most cooking in America is done by men. As far as household cooking, I do see a trend of it evening out between men and women.
What are some simple dishes for men to get started with?
For men who are just starting out, I’d recommend starting with cold dishes to avoid pressure of timing cooked items. Salads, ceviche, and sandwiches are always good items to start with. The next step would be soups and sauces. Those items give plenty of satisfaction and a sense of place in the kitchen.
I really enjoy my partnership with Chef Ken Tominaga at PABU. My team and I were able to learn so much and really explore new ideas—it was incredible to have Ken as a mentor for our team. I enjoyed it tremendously and hope to do more projects partnering with other chefs in the future.
Did your childhood have anything to do with your career? When did you discover your love/passion for cooking?
Born in Cairo, Egypt and raised in Ellensburg, Washington, I have always had a love affair with the kitchen and creating memorable dining experiences for guests from a very early age. My epicurean journey began in 1987 at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. During those 18 months of formal schooling, I spent the weekends sharpening my natural talents with hands-on experience in Charlie Palmer’s kitchen at the upscale Aureole in New York City.
I started in the kitchen when I was very young and I am still as intrigued with the process as I was when I was a 15-year-old Garde Manger in a small French restaurant in my hometown.
You started cooking so young. Are your children involved in the cooking for the house?
I am passionate about cooking, but my greatest passion is family. Luckily, my sons Sammy (14) and Anthony (10) share my love for the kitchen and together, we spend quality time creating their favorite dishes—Anthony and Sammy’s favorite dishes to cook (and eat!), spaghetti and meatballs and sushi, respectively.
What is your most memorable meal?
When Jean Louis Palladin, the chef who brought so much of the French technique to the U.S., was working at Napa in Las Vegas, I visited—it was the last time I got to eat his cooking (Palladin died in 2001). I had everything from sautéed baby eels to caviar on tasted brioche to pig’s bladder. Extraordinary.
Favorite place to dine outside of your own restaurants?
Aziza in San Francisco, which does refined Moroccan food. Or Hana, a Japanese place in Rohnert Park, Calif. is also a family favorite.
I’m visiting SF for the first time. Which one of your restaurants do I go to?
I’ve been cooking for over 20 years and I’ve always had the philosophy that restaurants should be chic, elegant, and beautiful but they also need to be comfortable with interactive and outgoing service. MICHAEL MINA in San Francisco delivers on this.
Each top level chef cooks in his or her own unique way. I try to be innovative and create new dishes or spins on classics that ensure a balance of flavors. At MICHAEL MINA, we’re continually trying to elevate the food. San Francisco’s clientele, incredible product, and amazing culinary competition helps us stay on our toes and strive to do better and better while maintaining a high energy, exciting dining room.