Michael Mina‘s story is one of two decades. With the October 2010 opening of Michael Mina, his eponymous signature restaurant in San Francisco, Michael is at the helm at the same location (formerly AQUA) and city where he first established his culinary reputation 20 years ago.
With accolades including James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage” inductee in 2013, Bon Appétit Chef of the Year 2005, San Francisco Magazine Chef of the Year 2005, as well as the International Food and Beverage Forum’s Restaurateur of the Year 2005, Michael continues to dazzle the culinary world with bold dining concepts that have contributed to San Francisco’s reputation as a world-class epicurean destination and made him an integral part of the dining scene across the country.
Michael’s culinary and business vision led to the founding of Mina Group, with partner Andre Agassi in 2002. Under the auspices of Mina Group, he has opened almost 40 operations, including Firebird Diner, Michael Mina, Clock Bar, Rn 74, Bourbon Steak, Arcadia, Stonehill Tavern, Strip Steak, Wit & Wisdom, Pub 1842, The Handlebar, Michael Mina 74, Pabu, The Ramen Bar, Bourbon Pub, Locale Market and Bardot Brasserie.
Located at the Four Seasons Hotel DIFC, MINA Brasserie is a modern, bustling brasserie for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving a selection of hearty dishes, in partnership with award-winning celebrity Chef Michael Mina.
Chef Michael, your journey has been extraordinary! What would you advise aspiring chefs who would like to become this successful?
I’m definitely fortunate to have had this spectacular journey, and it’s a privilege to be able to offer my dishes across land and sea in Dubai! My advice to aspiring chefs would be to pay attention to every single detail. It’s crucial not to skip any steps. The saying ‘there’s no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs’ rings especially true for the culinary world.
Try to get into great kitchens and work in kitchens that are ran very professionally, don’t skip any steps along the way and ensure you are coherent —always remember that ultimately, you are not cooking for yourself, you are cooking for your guests and they deserve your absolute best. Once you apply this sort of ethos consistently it will drive your day-to-day work in the kitchen and help you realise your full and utmost potential.
How has your childhood contributed to your passion for food?
I grew up in a Middle Eastern household in the United States with my parents hailing from Egypt. There were always a lot of people at meal periods and food and eating was such an important part of our social experience.
A regular lunch or dinner at our house would have around 30 family members. The table was laid out all day with some of my favourite foods. We would spend hours there, talking, laughing, arguing and most important of all, connecting. Middle Eastern food is very bold in flavour, with rich spices and a wide variety of vegetables and fruits forming the backbone of the cuisine. The mixture of spices, acidity and sweetness ensured my palate was trained at a very young age.
My mother has been the core inspiration for my cooking and techniques. Growing up in an Egyptian household, she taught me the technique for many of the dishes at MINA Brasserie. My favourite thing I’ve learned from her is her falafel recipe – something we use for the falafel croutons in our new lamb chop dish at MINA Brasserie.
Where do you draw inspiration from when crafting your dishes?
It’s usually the origin or country from where the dish originates from. This is combined with what produce is available depending on the season and then I put my own twist on it – it’s important for me to create dishes that are innovative and always push the culinary envelope.
Inspiration can come out of anywhere. What you have to do is be open to receive it. For chefs, this doesn’t have to be a process that’s kept for the kitchen. I’m always inspired by design, architecture and art. You could be looking at a piece of art and it could trigger an idea for a special dish presentation, or you could smell something that reminds you of a dish you loved as a kid, and suddenly you have the drive to do something with it.
I often glean inspiration from my guests and diners as well and love to hear their feedback. Whether I’m cooking for the President (I’ve cooked for Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama) or my diners at MINA Brasserie, their feedback always inspires me to create new and innovative recipes in the kitchen.
What are some of your most popular creations and why do you think diners keep coming back for more?
I love putting fun and whimsical touches on classic dishes and they seem to really resonate with our guests too. Classic dishes with my signature twist like our Lobster Pot Pie, a rich dish that offers a vast range of flavours that satisfy every palate from the flaky pie dough to the creamy lobster sauce, my original Tuna Tartare that is one of our staples, or the Caviar Parfait which is a go-to for our guests who are looking for that extra indulgence.
I’ve always put a very large emphasis on balanced flavours— it’s important for food to have a good balance of acidity, sweetness, spice and richness so the dish doesn’t get boring. In addition to this, consistency is also imperative – a combination of both is the key for our guests to keep coming back for the same dish.
Tell us more about MINA Brasserie, and how it differs from your other global outposts.
MINA Brasserie differs in the sense that we always cook for our guests, so I would say it might be the most natural for me to cook here because the palates are very similar to what I grew up with.
Dubai is such a multicultural place, and MINA Brasserie is an amplification of this. Did you know that we’re a team of 26 at MINA Brasserie? Out of these 26 lovely, passionate team members, we have a total of 23 nationalities!
I was born in Egypt and grew up in the U.S.A so my early years and career have been shaped by being exposed to many cultures. You can feel this from my dishes which are rooted in cuisines from different places, yet they all have a touch of inspiration from my heritage.
Why have you decided to pop into Dubai in March and what menu do you have in store?
I have added six new dishes that utilise a lot of the spring and summer vegetables that really lighten the food and menu up. The new citrus salad is a testament to that.
Other new offerings like the grilled Mediterranean seabass, baked camembert with berry jam and the grilled lamb chops with fava beans and pea puree are also some of my favourite spring inspired dishes that I’m sure our guests would really appreciate.
What are your plans for GCC projects?
I would absolutely love to open additional projects in the region. Stay tuned!