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If you’re anything like us, finding the perfect wine takes a lot of trial and error. Walking into a liquor store can oftentimes elicit a sense of panic — there are hundreds of wines from all over the world and pretty much no direction from the kid sitting behind the counter. Whether you’re getting roped into buying overpriced bottles of wine because you like the look of the label, or just give up and walk out with Yellow Tail, it’s never an easy task finding a wine that suits your happy hour needs. Luckily we’ve found a little solution to this problem — enter Michael Mina.
The Michelin-starred and James Beard Foundation Award-winning Mina, chef and proprietor of 18 restaurants across the country, is launching the Michael Mina Wine Club and online boutique. "There’s a movement among wine drinkers away from high-octane, overly ripe wines, and toward the kinds of wines we serve in my restaurants: bright, balanced bottles made to complement food," Mina said in a recent press release. "The Michael Mina Wine Club is a way for me to extend the connection with our guests, and to provide them with hard-to-find selections from renowned vintners and cutting-edge newcomers from around the world."
The wines are hand-selected by Mina and his group of sommeliers, lead by wine director Rajat Parr. Mina’s wine club includes four shipments per year, each containing six cuvées selected from small yet passionate vintners. The wine club offers two price levels: Hidden Gems ($120 per shipment) and Wines of Consequence ($300 per shipment). A recent press release from Mina explains that each shipment includes detailed tasting notes and winery stories, sommelier and chef features, and home-cook-friendly recipe pairings inspired by dishes served at Mina Group restaurants. When asked what his inspiration for the wine club was Mina responded, "[The wine club] is a way for me to connect with our guests, who are a kind of extended family to me, beyond my restaurants. This program will bring a part of the Mina restaurant wine experience into members’ homes by sharing some of our favorite wines and the dishes we love to pair with them."
The introduction of a wine club might be a little out there for new wine drinkers, but it’s arguably one of the best ways to introduce yourself to new wines from around the world, as wine clubs do the work for you by selecting wines that are both interesting and affordable. It’s almost guaranteed that joining a wine club means you will be exposed to some of the best wines available. Michael Mina and his wine club take away the stress of a liquor store and deliver the wine to your doorstep with no hassle. The best part of joining is the benefits one receives from becoming a member. There are wine tastings, discounts, pairings, events, classes… the list goes on! If you’re a new wine drinker eager to gain more knowledge, the ideal way to start is with an informative and developmental wine club like Mina’s.
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Chefs similar to or like Michael Mina
American chef, restaurateur, and cookbook writer. He and his landmark Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry in Yountville, California, have won multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, notably the Best California Chef in 1996, and the Best Chef in America in 1997. Wikipedia
American chef and restaurateur often recognized for his contributions to molecular gastronomy or progressive cuisine. His Chicago restaurant Alinea has won numerous accolades and Achatz himself has won numerous awards from prominent culinary institutions and publications, including the Food and Wine 's "best new chefs" award in 1998, "Rising Star Chef of the Year Award" for 1999, "Best Chef in the United States" for 1998 and a 2003 "Who's Who Inductee" from the James Beard Foundation. Wikipedia
American chef, restaurateur and cookbook author. Yard has served as a chef in several Wolfgang Puck restaurants, including Spago, Rainbow Room and Tribeca Grill. Wikipedia
Michael Mina to open his first restaurant in Wine Country
Empire-building restaurateur Michael Mina is opening another Bay Area restaurant, and for the first time in his career, it will be one in Wine Country.
The new project is still in its planning stages, but according to the Mina Group, it will be called Wit & Wisdom Tavern and is slated to open at the Lodge in Sonoma. It has a tentative early 2020 opening date and will replace the resort&rsquos current restaurant, Carneros Bistro.
As for the Wit & Wisdom Tavern name, it&rsquos a reference to the title of Jack London&rsquos collection of personal writings. Mina previously operated a Wit & Wisdom in Baltimore it closed in 2018.
Sonoma&rsquos Wit & Wisdom Tavern will serve lunch and dinner highlighting a variety of open-fire cooking methods: a wood-fired pizza oven, a charcoal oven and wood-burning stove. Wilson Ishihara, the designer behind Healdsburg&rsquos Journeyman Meat Co., is working on the new space, which will have an outdoor terrace offering al fresco dining and a bocce ball court.
&ldquoWhen we took a look at the space, they have all the elements of hearth cooking, and so we wanted to build the whole concept on cooking around wood,&rdquo Mina said via email.
Share All sharing options for: 49ers to launch Michael Mina Tailgate on northeast side of Levi's Stadium
The San Francisco 49ers will officially cut the ribbon on Levi's Stadium on July 17, opening what will be one of the most technologically advanced, and environmentally friendly stadiums in the world. The football product is what we are most concerned about when the 49ers step foot on the field, but the 49ers are constructing a fascinating complex in Santa Clara. I suppose for $1.3 billion, it better have a few bells and whistles.
Since construction began, we have focused in large part on the technological and environmental features of the new stadium. However, there are numerous fascinating features beyond just that. A week and a half ago, we discussed the new tailgate feature that will be connected to Great America. For $850, you can hit up an all you can eat and drink package, that will be a little bit better than the normal hamburger and hot dogs you might otherwise find.
If you're looking for a pre-game party that will be even more upscale than that, the team is working with world-renowned chef Michael Mina to install a restaurant and pub in the stadium. The facility will be open seven days a week, but on game day it will include a tailgate party that will run into the beginning of the second half. The pre- and in-game festivities will be a members only party, costing $5,000 for the season. It's a pricey option, but I had a chance to speak with Mina about it, and it's going to be a pretty crazy party.
For those that are not aware, Mina has lived in the Bay Area since the '80s, and has been a 49ers fan since he was a kid growing up in Washington. I was out in San Francisco two weeks ago for minicamp and the A's-Red Sox series. Mina follows @NinersNation on Twitter, so I got in touch with him about getting together for an interview to discuss what is being called the Michael Mina Tailgate. We met up at his newest restaurant, Pabu, and I got to hear his passion first hand. All photos are courtesy of Michael Mina.
If you run out gas, and decide it's too long and didn't read, I've broken down some of the basics at the bottom.
On his own fandom
Mina grew up in Washington state, and was limited in how much he could watch the 49ers. This was before NFL Network was around, and even before and into the early years of ESPN. The NFL was growing, but it was nothing like what we see today. In Washington, he was stuck watching NFL Today, and hoping for 49ers highlights amidst the weekly viewing of terrible Seahawks teams.
In the mid-80s, Mina moved to San Francisco to develop his career as a chef, and finally got to experience the 49ers first hand. He helped open his first restaurant, Aqua, at which point he was also working as a pastry chef at the Four Seasons. It was there that he got his first chance at season tickets to the 49ers. He would go with another chef there, and eventually Mina purchased his own season tickets, starting with a pair, then expanding to four and then six tickets.
On his tailgate
As any good fan does, Mina started up a pre-game tailgate at Candlestick Park. A good tailgate has a crowd of friends, and friends of friends. Everybody will bring food and drinks, and it will be a great time. Given Mina's background as a chef, it should surprise nobody that he put together a sizable tailgate in the Candlestick parking lot.
The tailgate at Candlestick was awesome. Just awesome. They almost started. my two tickets came from a chef friend of mine. When I first moved out here and was building my first restaurant, Aqua, I was working as pastry chef at the Four Seasons, and I would go with the chef, a gentleman named Kelly Mills. It just kind of started as chefs, and everything from winemakers to beverage vendors. And we just started gathering at a couple poles. We started gathering at the E pole, and every chef would bring one thing to cook, and each would just cook one item. It became 3, 4, 5 chefs, and we'd each cook an item, and different wine makers, some amazing winemakers.
Everybody was a 49ers fan. People would bring great bottles that were very treasured, some of their reserves. And then other people started coming. It just started to grow a little bit, and then it kind of kept growing. We would basically average 50-200 people that would end up kind of being in this one area, depending on the game. And it was always themed on whatever team we were playing. If we were playing New Orleans, we'd do dishes that had Cajun inspiration.
Again, it was fun because we kept it as tailgating. We'd bring a couple burners and a grill, and we know how to make our way around that. And we kept it in the spirit of tailgating, but with very elevated products and food. So that's how it started. What ended up happening was that the chef community started kind of knowing what was going on. We were all friends, a lot of them were into sports and into their team, so we all talked trash. Say we were playing the Patriots, I would invite Todd English who's in Boston. When we're playing the Giants, I'd invite all my friends from there, and have them come sit with me.
We just always had a good time. It became a really fun party. It wasn't just chefs. It was a lot of different Bay Area people, and after a while I got to be good friends with Ronnie Lott, different great athletes that would come into the restaurant. We'd get them in at Aqua, and then I got to know the Yorks, Carmen Policy. Between being about Aqua, and being a hard core 49ers fan, they wove themselves in nicely.
The Bourbon Steakhouse & Pub concept
The northeast side of Levi's Stadium will feature Bourbon Steak & Pub. Mina has opened several Bourbon Steak restaurants, but this will be the first that will include the restaurant as well as a pub. Mina got to know 49ers president Paraag Marathe, and in turn had gotten to know Jed York. It was Marathe and York who approached Mina about opening up some kind of restaurant at the stadium.
The initial plan was for a basic sit-down restaurant that would open up before and after the game. People would come in, sit down, enjoy a good meal, and then head to the game. It sounded fairly simply, but Mina wanted to blow it out. And considering this stadium is cutting edge in so many ways, it made sense to come up with a restaurant that would reflect that.
So, Paraag and Jed basically said, what would you do? Dream up a concept. While we were looking at the blue prints and understanding the space [where the restaurant was planned], I noticed there was a space next to it that didn't have a stamp quite on it yet. It might be this, it might be that. When I presented to them, I presented something that was a little bigger. The original concept had about 7,000 square foot, that we had a way of creating a space that could go through and go in. I told them, I want to do a Bourbon Steak and a Bourbon Pub because Bourbon Steak is my steakhouse brand, and we cook everything over wood, and it really feels very much like that. And the Pub brand, just really fits that demographic, of being at a stadium but in California. You use great products and great techniques, but you're still doing good American pub food, just executed very well. And great beers. Kind of what you would want.
As I noticed this other space, I said, how amazing would it be to have an event space at the stadium. Here was this other space that was just a little down below, it hadn't really been stamped for anything. So I pitched them the idea, and Paraag had been to my tailgates, and Jed had been to a tailgate, so how about we move the Michael Mina tailgate inside? I think the original though was, we have this restaurant, let's open before the game, let's open after the game. It's a sit-down restaurant experience. I said, let's blow this thing out. Let's do something totally different, let's move my tailgate party inside. Let's create all this unbelievable cooking equipment that's on these two different levels. That is really kind of completely creating that is something that has not been created yet. The largest indoor wood fire rotisserie probably in the country, where we can cook a whole ox. Things that are totally outside the box, that really fit the idea of the steakhouse, the pub, and the tailgate. That fit all three. And luckily they all three go together, so we can utilize it all the time.
Then we have this amazing events space. So we started talking about it, could we get members because the spirit of it needed to stay a party. And so, I just didn't like the spirit of before the game you have this party, but everybody gets a check. There's this exchange of money. It just felt more like it needed to be a party. Everybody felt that we could do this. That we could create this membership experience, and continue to invite chefs, and continue to do that but just on steroids. Unbelievable equipment, indoor facility. My goal is that it stays true, like all of this wood-fire cooking equipment, to keep that feel of beautiful meets roasting over wood. And things that really connect you with tailgating and what it's supposed to be. Just kind of fun cooking. The lobster tank where we're dropping crane with the ocean water, where we're dropping baskets of 50, 100 lobsters at a time. The type of indulgence cooking, but having people walk away from it with having this experience.
In case you overlooked it in the quotation above, yes, they will be cooking ox over the woodfire.
So, what about this tailgate?
Mina wanted to blow things out with this crazy tailgate. It will include a membership that will cost people $5,000 for the season, which covers ten games (two preseason, eight regular season games). It's a lot, but if you're looking to thoroughly indulge yourself, it is kind of amazing.
I have ten weeks, I'm a member. So I come every week, so it's not just the typical. Every week we're continuing the spirit of theming at least 50 percent of the food after the team we're playing. Products from that state, dishes from that state, and chefs that have connections to that. Or just continue to invite chefs to just cook, and give them the direction of cooking tailgate food, or cooking food from that state. And just keep the spirit of the tailgate we started in Candlestick, keep the spirit but elevate the experience.
On game day, the whole thing is tailgate. The experience works like this: you come through either before you sit down to eat, or after you get done eating. There is a big outdoor area where you can stand, drink, watch games. For that we created the old school type of delivery trays, really well done, where people come around with very fun food. Say we're playing Philly. There would be Philly Cheesesteaks on the perfect bread. Seven, eight items, that people walk around and experience. Cocktails, everything else. My wife, what she always did at the tailgates, she makes the best bloody mary's you've ever had in your life. She has an enormous garden that just grows bloody mary's. She has her own recipe. Tomatoes, the herbs, everything you make the bloody mary's with. She has a bloody mary bar. Bloody Mary bar, a regular bar, just cocktails all over the place. And again, cocktails in the spirit of the team we're playing. Beer, wine, the whole thing.
And so, you're enjoying the tailgate experience, and then there are two lines that are in front of all of that cooking equipment. We'll do a whole ox every game. We have these saddles of these oxen, we're cutting meat off it. Every game we're going to do six little composed dishes that are very much based on the opponent. If we're playing New England, we'll do New England lobster broiled pot pie, something like that.
So six really great kind of fun, elevated dishes that you come through a line separate from the stand-around food options. In the stand-around area, you'll have a crazy shell fish bar, each game we're going to do one station for whatever chef is visiting, where they can do whatever they want to do on that table. It's their table, do whatever you want with it. We're going to do very fun liquid nitrogen ice creams, little sodas and things. It's just going to be very playful. When you leave, you get a little lunch pail that has every little snack when you're at your seat. It has your little nuts, all your little things you want there.
A lot of interaction while you're standing there, but then the experience of walking through the line. And the reason that we made it a line, as opposed to people sitting down and we bring them food, is because we want them to walk up and be right next to where the beef is being cut up. But you're not serving yourself. You're just walking up so that the chef can communicate with you, give you the dish, tell you what it's about. And so you get six dishes every game, if you can eat them all. If you haven't done too much damage down below.
If I'm not a member, what can I experience?
The tailgate will be a members-only experience, but the Bourbon Steak & Pub will be open seven days a week. Immediately after games on Sunday, Monday or Thursday, the restaurant will be open. Members will get first crack at reservations for the post-game spread, but if it does not fill up, any other fans are welcome to come by. There will be a cover charge, and you'll get to enjoy hand-carved sandwiches from the meat cooked during the day for the game.
As mentioned above, Mina wanted to create a restaurant that would be open seven days a week, and not just for game days. The restaurant has about 100 seats, but there is also the event space and the pub area. The plan is to host fans for events throughout the week, all year long. They are opening during football season, so they get a nice benefit from that. They will be able to take advantage of Thursday Night Football, Monday Night Football, football on Sundays when the team is out of town, and of course college football on Saturdays. For Thursday, they might do a BBQ set-up, Saturday could be a fun surf-and-turf special, and Friday they might roll out a big blues thing. The idea is to create a lively atmosphere, built around fun events.
What is this about? Basically a tailgate on steroids
No really, what is it? A Bourbon Steak & Pub restaurant, with event space to set up an upscale tailgating experience. The tailgate is for game days, but the facility will be open seven days a week.
How much does it cost to do this tailgate? $5,000 per year
What do I get for that? Access to Bourbon Steak & Pub before the game, through halftime. There will be various food stations set up in the space. They will feature some regular options, as well as numerous foods and products from the region of the opposing team. You will get all you can eat, and all you can drink, as well as a little too good lunchpail to take into the stadium.
If I'm not a member, when can I go in? It will be open 7 days a week. The tailgate before and during 49ers home games is only open to members. On days without 49ers home games, it is open to the general public, although given the size, you'll probably want to check ahead of time for availability.
Who is Michael Mina? A world renowned chef who is a life-long 49ers fan.
Michael Mina's juicy holiday secret: A butter-poached roast
There is no getting around it: Poaching a prime rib of beef in eight pounds of butter is extravagant. In this economy, spending $125 on just the entree of a dinner for 12 had better lead to spectacular results.
In San Francisco chef Michael Mina's hands, it can. Mina devised the butter-poaching method at his eponymous restaurant in San Francisco 4? years ago and now uses it as the focal point for his Bourbon Steak restaurant concept.
But could it work for a home cook, particularly one interested in pulling out all the stops for Christmas dinner? We started with what we hoped would be a solution and then went to look for the problem.
Victoria Marquez, 30, a social science analyst for the Department of Health and Human Services, charmed us. Her mother, Toni, is a terrific cook who puts out a Martha Stewart-like standing-rib repast at the family home in Gaithersburg, Md., every year and even clips rose petals for a dessert garnish. But Toni thinks it's nearing time to pass the torch.
"I would love to wow the Christmas gang with an amazing meal," Victoria wrote in an e-mail. "The best compliment I could receive would be, 'You're just like your mother.' " Someone who actually aspires to be like her mother deserves a reward. So for Marquez, Christmas occurred Nov. 6, when Mina and his 27-year-old executive chef, David Varley, showed up at her Connecticut Avenue one-bedroom, unloaded groceries and presented a menu: toasted chestnut soup, butter-poached standing rib roast, side dishes of fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts and carrots, and kabocha squash sticky toffee puddings for dessert.
Mina, 40, could not have been more amiable. Six feet tall, dark and boyish, he is also soft-spoken, but that doesn't mean he lacks drive.
Twenty years after he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., his Mina Group (Andre Agassi is a partner) owns 15 restaurants, six of which opened in the past year.
Mina's two signature concepts are trios (interpreting one ingredient three ways) and butter-poaching. At Bourbon Steak, he applies the technique to porterhouses, rib-eyes and the like, but for Christmas at home with his wife and two young sons, he has poached the more celebratory cut of prime rib. In Marquez's kitchen, he demonstrated by heating a deep pan of clarified butter to 165 degrees before submerging a four-pound rib roast in it and baking it in a 300-degree oven for about 90 minutes until it reached an internal temperature of 127, just under medium-rare.
"The butter seals the prime rib," said Mina, wearing a black chef's coat, black pants and black Prada loafers. "You can look in the pan when it's done there's not a drop of juice in there, and that's the trick." If the butter is too hot, the juice will run out and the meat will be ruined. That's why Bourbon Steak uses "immersion circulators" to maintain pans of clarified butter (or olive oil for lamb, bacon fat for pork, duck fat for chicken) at constant temperatures.
Varley says the technique has redefined expectations about cooking protein.
"This is edge-to-edge cooking," he said, meaning that when you slice into the meat, the doneness of the cross-section is uniform.
(That also occurs in sous vide, the technique of cooking in vacuum-pack bags in carefully controlled water baths, but Mina finds butter a sexier sell than plastic.) "Gone are the days where you see a gray margin around the outside a bull's-eye, blood-red center and a no man's land in between. The entire eye is rare."
Indeed, when the roast came out of the oven, very little juice had been released, and it was quite plump. Still, something was missing.
"Now you have to add the love," Mina said. That meant searing the meat over high heat to caramelize its exterior and create the crusty, roasty meat flavor that carnivores crave.
While the roast was poaching, Mina talked to Marquez about how to achieve complexity of flavor in dishes that seemed simple. The words "layering," "caramelizing" and "balance" came up over and over.
By layering, he meant maximizing flavor along every step of a recipe and weaving a profile throughout a menu. The sachet that perfumed the soup, for instance, included some of the same herbs (rosemary, bay leaf) that Mina employed to infuse the poaching butter he then carried those herbs through to the other side dishes.
Everything in the soup was caramelized: the butter, the chestnuts, the honey, the vinegar.
As for balance, "there are four things you're always tasting for," Mina said. "Acidity, sweetness, spiciness and richness. If you add sweetness, you want to add acid or spiciness or both. When you add fat, you have to add acid to balance it out."
Culinary Luminaries Kick-Off Luxe Tailgate with Mina at Levi’s(r) Stadium
Santa Clara, Calif. ( September 14, 2015 ) — Michelin-starred chef, Michael Mina has announced an all-star guest chef lineup for the highly anticipated second season of Michael Mina’s Tailgate, just in time for the first 49ers home game on September 14. For nearly three decades, the chef himself has joined thousands of 49ers fans for Sunday pre-game tailgates as a proud season ticket holder. Over the years, his tailgates have grown in scope and size, impressing friends, family and chef friends with elaborate spreads and surprises on the blacktop, including flowing cheese fondue fountains and decadent Bloody Mary Bars.
Now, on the celebrity chef’s own home turf at Levi’s(r) Stadium, his year-old Bourbon Pub & Bourbon Steak transforms into Michael Mina’s Tailgate each home game day, offering a once-in-a-lifetime, membership-only opportunity tailor-made for 49ers season ticket holders. Combining the best elements of tailgating and dining, Michael Mina’s Tailgate allows VIP luminaries to rub elbows in an eponymous setting.
The ultimate tailgate experience offers a game-themed menu and signature beverage pairing experience followed by whimsical plays on American classics such as roasted ox over potato broccoli gratin and wagyu saddles of roasted
beef. While nearly all ingredients are locally sourced, at least one selection will be especially themed toward the opposing team, with products sourced directly from that region.
“As a lifelong 49ers fan this tailgate is really a dream come true,” said Mina. “Not only do I get to work with the 49ers and cook with my chef friends from around the country, but being able to share this experience with the other 49ers faithful is the ultimate for me.”
Levi’s Stadium season ticket holders have the exclusive opportunity to become Michael Mina’s Tailgate members. The annual membership fee of $5,000 provides access to an upscale, all inclusive game-themed menu prepared by
Host and Chef Michael Mina, as well as an accompanying beverage menu including a signature game-themed cocktail for each game. While tailgating, members enjoy pregame and game-time action on the 70 HDTVs throughout the venue. In-keeping with the outdoor cooking feel of tailgating, the restaurant offers a state of the art cooking station on two levels a wood-fire grill and a two-story rotisserie cooking jidori chicken, waygu beef and ox. However, the venue is anything but ordinary and captures the true spirit of tailgating and magic of the 49ers.
At kickoff time, Michael Mina’s Tailgate sends members off with Treats for Your Seats, featuring gourmet treats and snacks to munch on during the game. Post-game, they will be granted preferred reservations for dinner at Bourbon
Pub & Bourbon Steak. In addition, a personalized concierge provides preferred reservations for all Mina Group restaurants including Michael Mina in San Francisco. Michael Mina’s Tailgate Experience is in two words – complete indulgence. Please see below for a full line-up for 2015-2016 Season. There will be several surprise chefs along the way, so this is a series not to be missed:
Click the (+) to expand descriptions
+ Alimentos de Extremadura
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Raised in Southern California, David began at a very young age working with his father and grandfather, chefs and restaurateurs who had established Genio’s Restaurant in Burbank. In addition, he also had the good fortune of working with Julia Child and was a guest chef at the James Beard House in the early ’90′s. Having moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in the mid 2000′s, David returned to his Italian roots and his love for fine wine at Cecco Ristorante as Chef and co-owner.
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Kelly Klemovich Chef/Owner
Chameau introduces a taste of Morocco to Fairfax Avenue and beyond. Owner Kelly Klemovich and Chef Adel Chager’s bring the finest Moroccan flavors to their loyal fans who return again and again for fresh-made salads and roasted meats and vegetables. It's just the place to stop in for a quick bite or takeout.
+ The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills
– Tony Princiotta, General Manager and Buyer
+ Chef Evi Catering & Events
Evi Yeh, Head Chef
Chef/owner Evi Yeh specializes in healthy food of all types for the mind, body and soul with only one goal, to make your tummy smile. This boutique catering company is based in Culver City and specializes in events of all sizes. Working exclusively with vendors around the city, Chef Evi and her team provide a one-stop shop experience, so you can focus on more important things like getting excited for your event.
+ Chef Joseph Manzare
Chef Joseph Manzare
Growing up in the Bronx, Joseph Manzare started out in the restaurant business at 14. By 17 he was telling people he was getting ready to open his own place. A slight detour to college and a degree in business couldn’t keep him out of the kitchen. He was nominated for a James Beard Award at age 44. At the helm of some of California’s best known restaurants, Joseph’s focus has always been on fresh, organically raised produce, as well as, naturally and humanely raised meats and poultry.
+ Chef Scott Renney
Scott’s passion for cooking began 16 years ago at the Marriott in NC where the executive chef took him under his wing. Currently, he is Chef and Food and Beverage Director at Hilton in NC. He also goes to newly acquired properties, teaching about policies, procedures, cooking and most importantly how to enjoy what you do. He also volunteers his talents for Make a Wish, Alzheimer's, The Teen Project and CF. The best feeling is knowing you’ve help make someone’s day a little bit brighter.
+ Chef Chang Sivilay
Chef Chang Sivilay
Chef Chang Sivilay has decades of experience in the culinary arts, having specialized in upscale high-volume restaurants, hotels and luxury resorts. His approach to food honors traditional flavors and recipes modified through modern techniques and presentations. His knowledge of international cuisine and his research-based approach to menu creation and internal operations have proven to be the key to the success of numerous prestigious hotels and restaurants in California.
+ Chef Tyler Stone
Chef Tyler Stone, Personal Chef & Caterer
Asked why he enjoys cooking, Tyler compares it to creating a multi-course meal, “Even though each course is unique, added together, the whole meal provides a feeling of wholeness, satisfaction, and fulfillment." He has enjoyed numerous TV and radio appearances on local networks and has prepared fabulous dinner parties for local and national celebrities, organizations and politicians. He has worked with the former executive chef of the White House, Chef Walter Scheib, the California Culinary Olympic Team, and some of the country's greatest chefs.
+ CWC Cooking with Corralez
Lance Corralez, Chef/Owner
Throughout his extensive career in Los Angeles, Award-Winning critically acclaimed chef Lance Corralez has put his unique spin in all aspects of culinary arts while not compromising the taste of his cuisine. He credits his cuisine to cooking with simple ingredients while not sacrificing the taste of the food.
Lee Bennett, Executive Chef Bourbon Steak and Bourbon Pub, Levi’s® Stadium, Santa Clara
Chef Lee Bennett joins the MINA Group as Executive Chef for both the Bourbon Steak and Bourbon Pub locations at Levi’s Stadium ® in Santa Clara, CA. Bringing his extensive international influence to both concepts, Bennett will collaborate closely with Michael Mina on presentation, quality and service for the operation as a whole.
Comfortable with overseeing large, multifaceted operations, his most recent post at Crafthouse & Angelica in London involved opening the multi-layered concept, including two separate operations, a team of 22 chefs and eight separate, seasonally rotating menus. Previously, he served as Executive Chef of Le Pont de la Tour in London, UK: an elegant, 19th-century former tea warehouse alongside Tower Bridge, which served classic French cuisine. There, Bennett oversaw the main restaurant and adjacent bar, food store, wine shop and bakery. Along with its vast size, the restaurant served as an icon amongst the London dining scene, inviting heads of states, royalty and major international celebrities, prepping Bennett for the vast Levi’s Stadium ® environs of Bourbon Steak and Bourbon Pub.
Raised in Yorkshire, England, Bennett began his culinary career at 15, working at a variety of restaurants and hotels around Yorkshire including the Expanse Hotel and Hazelwood Castle. In 1999, he moved to London to serve as Chef de Partie at L’Anis, where he worked alongside Jason Atherton. He then joined Gordan Ramsay Holdings Limited and moved to Dubai to take the position of Sous Chef at Verre at age 21. After two years, he relocated to Paris to work at Pierre Gagnaire’s Restaurant and later alongside Alain Ducasse at the Hotel Plaza Athenee.
Bennett retuned to London as Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill. During his tenure, the restaurant retained its Michelin star. In 2007, he became the youngest winner of the Craft Guild of Chefs “Restaurant Chef of the Year” award, which is the leading chefs’ association in the UK. In 2008, he joined D&D London as the Executive Chef of Le Pont de la Tour. It was at this iconic riverside restaurant that Bennett truly made his mark with his modern French menu and haute cuisine. He also appeared on BBC’s “The Great British Menu” where top British Chefs competed for the chance to cook for the producers of British Food, where Prince Charles was the guest-of-honor. This television appearance was followed by an appearance on “Masterchef UK” and “Celebrity Masterchef UK”.
After six more years in London, he decided to venture to Asia to become Chef de Cuisine at the Equinox complex, Swissotel The Stamford, Singapore. During his time there he worked with 55 chefs across four kitchens and debuted a new menu, which featured modern European cuisine with traditional values. In additional to running the main restaurant, he oversaw five private dining rooms, a nightclub, and lounge bar. In 2013, he returned to his Yorkshire roots to become Executive Head Chef of Crafthouse and Angelica, one of the latest additions to the D&D London portfolio. Leading a team of more than 20 chefs, he focused on quality produce, professionally cooked and simply served. In 2014, Crafthouse was awarded four awards at the Yorkshire Oliver awards including, best chef, best fine dining, best service and best overall restaurant in Yorkshire. Bennett has also overseen dining events for luminaries including two UAE Kings, sports stars such as David Beckham and cooked luxury street party food for the royal wedding.
Michael Mina's magic touch
1 of 9 ###Live Caption: 4-star chef Michael Mina, with his son's Sammy, 10, and Anthony (left), 6, playing a video game, back in the kitchen at his restaurant, Michael Mina restaurant, in the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Calif., on April 9, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Caption History: 4-star chef Michael Mina, with his son's Sammy, 10, and Anthony (left), 6, playing a video game, back in the kitchen at his restaurant, Michael Mina restaurant, in the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Calif., on April 9, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Notes: Michael Mina restaurant 415-397-9222 Craig Lee 415-218-8597 [email protected] ###Special Instructions: MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT Photo by Craig Lee Show More Show Less
2 of 9 ###Live Caption: Four-star chef, Michael Mina and his wife Diane, at their home in Novato, Calif., on April 19, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Caption History: Four-star chef, Michael Mina and his wife Diane, at their home in Novato, Calif., on April 19, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Notes: Craig Lee 415-218-8597 [email protected] ###Special Instructions: MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT Photo by Craig Lee Show More Show Less
4 of 9 ###Live Caption: Lamb dish cooked three ways at Michael Mina restaurant, in the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Calif., on April 9, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Caption History: Lamb dish cooked three ways at Michael Mina restaurant, in the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Calif., on April 9, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Notes: Michael Mina restaurant 415-397-9222 Craig Lee 415-218-8597 [email protected] ###Special Instructions: MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT Photo by Craig Lee Show More Show Less
5 of 9 ###Live Caption: Ten year-old Sammy Mina, son of 4-star chef Michael Mina, chatting it up with people in the lounge at his father's restaurant, Michael Mina restaurant, in the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Calif., on April 9, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Caption History: Ten year-old Sammy Mina, son of 4-star chef Michael Mina, chatting it up with people in the lounge at his father's restaurant, Michael Mina restaurant, in the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Calif., on April 9, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Notes: Michael Mina restaurant 415-397-9222 Craig Lee 415-218-8597 [email protected] ###Special Instructions: MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT Photo by Craig Lee Show More Show Less
7 of 9 ###Live Caption: New England Seafood Salt Bake by four-star chef, Michael Mina, on his home out door grill in Novato, Calif., on April 19, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Caption History: New England Seafood Salt Bake by four-star chef, Michael Mina, on his home out door grill in Novato, Calif., on April 19, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Notes: Craig Lee 415-218-8597 [email protected] ###Special Instructions: MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT Photo by Craig Lee Show More Show Less
8 of 9 ###Live Caption: 4-star chef Michael Mina working in the kitchen at his restaurant, Michael Mina restaurant, in the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Calif., on April 9, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Caption History: 4-star chef Michael Mina working in the kitchen at his restaurant, Michael Mina restaurant, in the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, Calif., on April 9, 2008. Photo by Craig Lee / The San Francisco Chronicle ###Notes: Michael Mina restaurant 415-397-9222 Craig Lee 415-218-8597 [email protected] ###Special Instructions: MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT Photo by Craig Lee Show More Show Less
Michael Mina is frowning. The staff has screwed up the bread service at his new restaurant in Scottsdale.
"I want a call set up. These are exactly the kind of details we talked about," he tells his assistant Jennifer Powell during their ritual morning briefing. All of his restaurant managers are required to write a report specifying the previous night's number of diners, the average check, the triumphs and snafus.
Some regulars at Saltwater at the MGM Grand in Detroit didn't like the new tasting menu.
"I want to see a copy of that," Mina says.
Bourbon Steak in Miami had a better night. University of Miami football coach Randy Shannon was in. And in typical Mina fashion, Shannon was served dessert on the house.
Running through the summaries - usually on his cell phone as Mina drives from his Novato home to his self-named flagship restaurant at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco - has become imperative. It's how the 39-year-old chef-restaurateur keeps on top of quality. It also means traveling most nights of the week to a different restaurant's kitchen, then rushing back to spend Friday and Saturday nights cooking at Michael Mina. His employees are put through a rigorous training process. The good ones are promoted, like the general manager at Mexico City's Nemi, who started with Mina as a busboy. The bad ones don't last.
While Mina may not be a household name like Emeril Lagasse or Wolfgang Puck, in the restaurant world his name is spoken with reverence. And in San Francisco, where good restaurants sprout like poppies in spring, Mina has become synonymous with fine dining. During the past six years, his company, the Mina Group, has grown into an $80-million-a-year empire of 13 restaurants nationwide and in Mexico, including steakhouses and high-end seafood establishments.
"That's more restaurants than Bobby Flay, but fewer than Wolfgang Puck," says Clark Wolf, a restaurant consultant with offices in New York and California. Once you get to that scale, says Wolf, it's not easy to maintain excellence. "But Mina is doing a good job."
The proof: "The people inviting him to do business are not dummies," Wolf says, referring to the bigwigs who ask Mina to open restaurants in their hotels and casinos.
This was a banner year for restaurant Michael Mina in San Francisco, which not only retained its two-star rating (out of three) in the prestigious French Michelin guide, but joined The Chronicle's short list of Bay Area restaurants earning the highest ranking of four stars.
The Mina signature
It's here where Mina, who calls his cuisine modern American, perfected his trio concept, taking a main ingredient, such as lamb or tuna, and preparing it three different ways.
The idea came to him years ago when soft-shell crabs were in season. First he made a phyllo-crusted crab, garnished with oven-dried tomatoes, then added a crab cake and chilled crab salad to the plate just for fun. He says, "They all had the same flavor profile, with completely different preparations."
Chris L'Hommedieu, who left Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York to work as chef de cuisine for Mina in San Francisco says, "It's fascinating for me to see how his head works. Nine out of 10 times what he's thinking of doing is impossible. Yet he always makes it happen."
In 2002, when Mina left San Francisco's prized seafood restaurant, Aqua, to strike out on his own, people whispered that he was nuts. Even he had moments of doubt.
"I was absolutely terrified," recalls the chef, who at the time was thinking in terms of a total of six restaurants. He had already acquired two in Las Vegas - Aqua (later changed to Michael Mina) at the Bellagio, and Nobhillat MGM Grand Hotel - as part of a severance deal with Aqua principal, the late Charles Condy.
Now it was time to get investors, and that was daunting.
"I remember when he called," says tennis star Andre Agassi, who had met Mina a year earlier while eating at Aqua. "He was trying to refresh my memory of how we had met. I said, 'Michael, come on.' "
The six-foot, Egyptian-born chef is not easily forgotten. In fact, Agassi likes to tell the story of his first impression of Mina.
"It was a busy night at Aqua," he remembers. "Michael came over to talk to us and I said, 'I know you've got a lot going on, but do you think that before I leave you can help me find someone who could do my New Year's Eve party?"
Mina simply answered, "Yes." But by the end of dinner Mina hadn't supplied any names or numbers. So Agassi found him on his way out. "Michael," he said. "About that party?"
The event was just a week away. No sweat for the chef who throws last-minute parties in his sprawling backyard on a whim. So Mina tossed a beef tenderloin on Agassi's outdoor grill, turned the bar into a seafood buffet, and made four or five soups.
"It was world class," says Agassi, who has since become enamored of Mina's Kobe beef rib caps and his signature lobster pot pie. "They're off the chart."
So when Mina made his pitch for money, Agassi listened.
"Give me five minutes," Agassi told Mina. "Then call my guy."
Mina was sure he was being blown off. "I had never done this before, and it was really uncomfortable."
He took a few breaths, waited the five minutes and dialed. Agassi wanted in, all the way - no other shareholders.
"It's been my philosophy that you don't invest in things, you invest in people," he says. "I just fell in love with Michael as a person."
Mina and Agassi have been building the business at breakneck speed. They say they have no max-out number of restaurants if a good opportunity comes their way, they'll take it. This summer, Mina expects to open Clock Bar, a cocktail lounge in the St. Francis, across the lobby from his restaurant, and in 2009 RN74, a restaurant and wine bar in the under-construction residential Millennium Tower in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood.
This fall, he'll open his first Los Angeles place, XIV, a restaurant-lounge designed by Philippe Starck in West Hollywood. And in 2010, Mina is scheduled to open a restaurant at La Punta Papagayo, a 60-acre resort in Costa Rica.
Food comes first
Mina says he learned long ago that he wanted to focus on food, not plumbing, ventilation or leaky roofs. That's why he shuns most freestanding restaurants - XIV will be the first, an offer, he says, that was too good to refuse - and instead opts for spaces inside hotels, resorts and casinos. Let someone else worry about infrastructure.
But flooring, wall textures and china - those are his babies. He's worked side by side with some of the most creative designers in the business, including Barbara Barry, whose regal color scheme and rich fabric treatments have made Michael Mina one of the most elegant restaurants in San Francisco.
Mina's eye for detail is evident in his office on Geary Street, where each one of his restaurant's china patterns and table linens are displayed in wooden cubicles for reference and inspiration. It's here that the Mina Group brainstorms new concepts and designs.
"I never thought it would get this big this fast," admits Agassi.
But Mina has always had something to prove.
"When your parents are Middle Eastern immigrants, you have three choices," he says. "You can become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer."
Born in Cairo, Mina's family moved when he was 2 to Ellensburg, Wash., where his father was the president of the business department at Central Washington University. At 15, Mina got an after-school job at a local French bistro. He washed dishes, bussed tables and even did a little cooking. First he started small: Monte Cristo sandwiches and poached salmon. Then he began to experiment on friends who came into the restaurant.
"I loved it, especially the pressure," he remembers. But as a career choice, it was strictly out of the question.
"I had always been told cooking was a servant's job," he says.
Then, an episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" changed everything.
Robin Leach to George Morrone
"Robin Leach was profiling Jeremiah Tower at Stars," Mina says. "There was the chef tasting rich sauces and drinking Champagne. And I thought, 'This could really be a profession.' "
To appease his father he attended the University of Washington in Seattle for a year. But his heart wasn't in it. Eventually Mina persuaded his dad to let him enroll at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. The program required that he intern in a kitchen for six months, so Mina chose the Restaurant at the Hotel Bel-Air. It had a good reputation and was in Los Angeles, where Mina's brother lived.
At the time, George Mahaffey was acting chef. Mina was able to impress him over the telephone and get the job. Unbeknownst to Mina, however, Mahaffey was later replaced by George Morrone. So when Mina called asking for Chef George to confirm the internship, a bemused Morrone got on the horn.
"I never hired you," he told the devastated Mina. "I don't even know who you are."
But Mina didn't give up, and went to the restaurant in person. Morrone says he'll never forget the sight of the 19-year-old.
"I'm an East Coast guy," says the chef, who now lives in Berkeley. "These California kids were coming in in their shorts and flip-flops, and here's this guy in a three-piece suit. I was smitten."
At least until he heard Mina mutter to one of the staff, "That short guy over there is George Morrone?" But Morrone gave him the job anyway, in the pastry department. He was there three weeks when the pastry chef had a heart attack. Morrone looked at Mina and said, "You, you're taking over."
"He was a consummate professional," says Morrone. "You could see his brain always working."
Next, Mina served as an intern at Charlie Palmer's Aureole in Manhattan. After Friday culinary classes, he would take the train to the city in time for dinner service and return on Sunday. He worked on the kitchen line doing a little bit of everything.
Chef on a mission
"From the beginning, Michael had a seriousness and drive about him," says Palmer, who, like Mina, owns a string restaurants across the country, including Dry Creek Kitchen in the Hotel Healdsburg. "You could see that he had aspirations. He wanted to be someone."
After graduating from the CIA in 1989, Mina returned to the Bel-Air to work for Morrone. But there were big plans in the air. San Francisco businessman Charles Condy wanted to build one of the most innovative seafood restaurants in the country and he needed a chef. He went to Morrone, and Morrone selected Mina to be his second in command. Together they would create the sophisticated 120-seat space from the seats up.
"There were very few chefs as special as Michael," Morrone says of Mina's meteoric rise. "He had the determination, the competitive spirit and the love."
The second day after arriving in San Francisco in October 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed any chance of building their dream in the near future. Mina passed the time by working at Tribeca Grill in New York and the Clift Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco.
It was at the Clift that he met his future wife, Diane. She was in charge of the restaurant's high tea he was in charge of making the scones. In 1994, three years after Aqua finally opened, the pair married. It was on their honeymoon, says Diane Mina, when he invented his "love letter" caviar parfait, a signature appetizer at his restaurants and featured in "Michael Mina: The Cookbook" (Bulfinch, 2006).
"We were staying in Hawaii," she says. "We had ordered scrambled eggs, hash browns, bagels, lox and caviar. He was feeding me in bed, layering everything so right that it made the perfect bite."
Hothead cools down
For the next 11 years, Mina worked at Aqua. Condy and his chefs had built a company with restaurant holdings on the Peninsula, Las Vegas and Southern California. But the atmosphere in the company was beginning to get tense. Cooks and staff remember Mina as a hothead with a temper.
"Ten years ago, he had a reputation of being very hard on people," says L'Hommedieu, who first met his boss as a line cook at Aqua. "But he's mellowed with age. It's not that his standards have gone down, but his approach has changed."
By 1993, the relationship between Morrone and Condy was on the skids, and Morrone was sent packing. Mina was promoted, but not before he secured a promise from Condy to take financial care of his mentor.
"Michael is the best friend you can ever have," says Morrone, adding that he has put the Condy days behind him. "The circumstance was delicate. Michael put his neck on the line."
Nearly a decade later, Mina persuaded Condy to rehire Morrone as chef at Condy's new restaurant, Redwood Park, in the Transamerica Pyramid. But it didn't last. Condy fired Morrone yet again, and the restaurant went belly up. It was about that time that Mina, who wanted to go in a different direction than Condy, began negotiating an out from the Aqua Development Corp.
Today, he looks back on Condy, who died in 2006, fondly. Both he and Morrone agree that the restaurateur was a visionary who helped launch their careers, including Mina's 2002 James Beard Foundation Award for best California chef. And as far as mellowing with age, Mina has maintained his steely intensity, but his style is warm.
On a recent Friday night he brought his sons Anthony, 6, and Sammy, 10, to Michael Mina. It's part of their weekly father-son routine when Dad's in town. Anthony likes to help plate the food in the kitchen and steal a bonbon or two from the deep freeze, while Sammy works the dining room. When they get bored, the boys hunker down in a corner with dad's iPhone and watch repeats of "Hannah Montana."
Diane Mina worries that her husband frets too much over the business and spends too much time away. She hopes that she, the kids and life in the suburbs help take the edge off. Their weekends are filled with Pop Warner football, rugby practices and backyard swim parties. After a week of traveling, and bouncing off ideas with his staff for future restaurants, Mina thinks nothing of throwing a couple of ducks on the rotisserie in his test kitchen, a converted garage that looks out over the patio, and grilling seafood to feed neighbors and friends.
After all, says Mina, he got into the restaurant business for one reason. "I'm passionate about pleasing people."
Michael Mina's restaurants
Michael Mina. Westin St. Francis. 335 Powell St., San Francisco (415) 397-9222.
Arcadia. Marriot San Jose, 100 West Carlos St., San Jose (408) 278-4555.
Stonehill Tavern. St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach. Dana Point (949) 234-3318.
In Las Vegas
Michael Mina. Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
Nobhill. MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
Seablue. MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
Stripsteak. Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
Bourbon Steak Scottsdale. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Scottsdale, Ariz.
Bourbon Steak Miami. 19999 West Country Club Dr., Aventura, Fla.
Bourbon Steak Detroit. MGM Grand Detroit, 1777 Third St. Detroit, Mich.
Nemi. Mexico City, Distrito Federal Mexico.
Saltwater. MGM Grand Detroit, 1777 Third St., Detroit.
Seablue Borgata. Borgata Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, N.J.
Michael Mina's Seafood Bake
This technique can be done with a variety of shellfish to fit your family's tastes. Serve with grilled levain bread or crusty bread.
- 4 pounds rock salt
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 bunch rosemary
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- 2 heads of garlic, separated, unpeeled
- 2 2 1/2 pound lobsters, blanched and separated into pieces
- 2 pounds small red or yellow potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
- 3 pounds prawns, shells on
- 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
- 2 pounds clams
- -- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- -- Fresh lemons, for squeezing
Instructions: Preheat a gas grill to medium.
In a large bowl, combine the rock salt, spices, herbs and garlic. Spread a 1/4-inch layer on the bottom of a large metal baking pan. Place the lobster pieces and potatoes in the pan and top with the salt mixture. The salt should cup half way up the lobster. Place on the grill and close the lid. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.
Open the lid and carefully add the remaining shellfish to the pan, nestling it into the salt. Cover and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the shellfish have opened and the shrimp are pink. Carefully dig out the seafood and potatoes from the salt and arrange on a serving platter. Top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Per serving: 450 calories, 66 g protein, 29 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 314 mg cholesterol, 754 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.