I O G R A P H Y
Chef Michael Mina, the true beauty of his profession is in the sum of
all its different elements. "I love to cook. I am truly curious to
learn more about food every day. I enjoy having a big hand in a person's
pleasurable experience of an evening. I thrive on the intensity of the
fast pace and the pressure in the kitchen. And I adore the challenge to
be creative and produce reliable results."
days, the award-winning chef, whose accomplished culinary skills make
him appear seasoned beyond his youthful age of 33 years, has plenty of
opportunity to showcase his abilities and creativity. Aside from consulting
with his other restaurants Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco, Aqua
at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and Pisces in Burlingame, the
four-star chef also continues to excite diners with his mouth-watering
creations at the renowned seafood restaurant Aqua in San Francisco
where he is also a partner. In July 2001, Mina launched a new restaurant
concept, NOBHILL, at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas while bringing
his acclaimed Aqua restaurant to the St. Regis Resort and Spa in
Dana Point, California.
the demanding schedule and intense pressure, cooking simply remains a
labor of love for the James Beard Foundation-lauded Rising Star. "I
started to cook when I was really young," explains Mina. "And
I am still as interested and intrigued with the process as I was back
then as a 15-year-old when I got a job as the Garde Manger in a
small French restaurant in my hometown."
has come a long way, both literally and figuratively, since then. Born
in Cairo, Egypt, and raised in rural Ellensburg, Washington, Mina developed
a fondness for cooking and a determination to live in San Francisco early
on. "I wanted to move here ever since I saw a picture of the Golden
Gate Bridge when I was a kid," he remembers.
he had the chance to fulfill his childhood dream to take up residence
in the food capital of the West Coast, Mina went on a detour across the
nation to formalize his culinary training. In 1987 he joined the Culinary
Institute of America in upstate New York and for the next 18 months spent
weekends honing his hands-on cooking skills in Charlie Palmer's kitchen
in Manhattan at the famous Aureole.
a six-month "externship" briefly returned the young chef to
the West Coast and introduced him to George Morrone, Executive Chef
of the Hotel Bel Air. In 1989, after graduating the Culinary Institute,
Mina returned to Los Angeles and Morrone's kitchen. Opportunity came knocking
shortly after. Within six months of his arrival, the two men were presented
with an opportunity to join forces with restaurateur Charles Condy to
develop a concept and create a menu for a high-end seafood restaurant
in San Francisco.
hard work and the instinct to follow his dreams paid off for Mina as he
finally made his move to San Francisco. Unfazed by an earthquake that
greeted him on his second day in town, he dedicated himself to hiring
and training the kitchen staff and refining the menu as Aqua's Chef
de Cuisine. When Aqua opened in 1991, the restaurant immediately drew
national acclaim. Remembers Mina, "A restaurant with such an impact
hadn't opened in San Francisco in years."
his clients' appreciation and the concept of world-class seafood cuisine
combined with high standards in food quality and service have remained
unchanged, Mina's role and the food in the restaurant have evolved since
the early days. As Executive Chef since 1993, Mina has allowed his sophisticated,
bold and flavor-intensive dishes to develop over the years, continually
upgrading the menu, educating guests about the multi-faceted bounty of
the oceans and earning diners' trust. "It is exciting to see that
people will allow me to introduce them to unusual fare such as fresh eel
or even sea urchins," comments Mina on the more adventurous seafood
specials that sell out regularly. "I enjoy seeing the same people
return over the years and love to get their feedback on new variations
of dishes or recent menu additions."
a partner with Charles Condy in Aqua Development Corp., parent company
to Aqua, Charles Nob Hill, Pisces, Aqua at Bellagio,
NOBHILL and Aqua at St. Regis Monarch Beach, Mina feels
fortunate to be able to take his ideas for innovative and inventive dishes
of seafood delicacies directly to the table. "Fish is such a diverse
and interesting product. There are over 100 different kinds of fish that
are all butchered, handled and cooked differently," he explains.
"With so much variety, cooking and eating always remains new and