Interview: Chef Michael Mina (Mina Group + Cook Taste Eat)Photo of Michael Mina and Michelle Branch courtesy of Cook Taste Eat
Michael Mina is a multi-dimensional San Francisco based chef who teamed with tennis star Andre Agassi on the Mina Group in 2002. They’ve built a restaurant empire that spans from Seattle to Dana Point on the West Coast and Atlantic City to Miami on the East Coast, with several concepts in between. Mina recently expanded into the online realm, teaming with Tanya Melillo and singer-songwriter Michelle Branch on Cook Taste Eat. The website and newsletter features daily video cooking lessons from Mina, Branch and a rotating roster of guest chefs. Mina recently shared culinary insights about the online and restaurant worlds.
Considering you operate a restaurant group, in what ways does Cook Taste Eat complement or conflict with your core business’ mission?
Cook Taste Eat offers me an amazing platform to reach my guests on another level, as well as food lovers and aspiring home cooks. It’s very complementary to my mission of wanting to teach people how to cook, and more importantly how to taste the food they’re cooking, as well as offer insights into creating great meals at home.
What will it take for you to consider Cook Taste Eat a success?
Cook Taste Eat will be a success in my eyes if people signing up for the daily video emails connect with the message, learn something new every day and feel empowered in the kitchen because of what they learned from the videos and website.
What is your favorite part about being a restaurateur and chef?
I love to make memories for our guests. I look at cooking and having restaurants as welcoming guests to my home every night. Entertaining guests, making them feel comfortable and offering them new experiences with food, and friends – ultimately creating those memories – is what makes my job my dream job. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What’s the biggest challenge about operating multiple restaurants in multiple cities?
I actually look at the amazing opportunities I have in each of the markets I have restaurants in. Learning the markets, understanding how I can complement their food scene in each of those cities, getting to meet new guests, and staff. It’s all an incredible experience.
What do you look for when you’re hiring someone to work in one of your kitchens?
I really look for cooks who want to learn and have a passion for what we do on a daily basis. A can-do attitude and hard work go a long way in my kitchens.
Is there anything that you don’t enjoy eating?
I try to focus on seasonal ingredients in my cooking, so I naturally avoid eating out-of-season fruits and vegetables. That’s really my only aversion.
How are you able to maintain balance in your life, if you’re even able to?
My family – my wife and two sons – are my true north. I work hard, and I play hard with my family. They are extremely supportive and we look forward to every moment we’re able to spend together as a family.
Is there a chef you’ve never had a chance to cook with that you’d most like to cook with?
Chef Ferran Adria, definitely.
If you could only eat one more meal, who would you let cook it for you and why?
I would ask my mother to make me a meal – something Middle Eastern.
When people think of Michael Mina, what would you to be known for?
Bold, balanced flavorful food. And a true love for the culinary world. It’s given me so much – I hope to give back through Cook Taste Eat.