Once the poster boy for dotcom-era Bay Area expense account dining, Michael Mina has proven to have more tenacity ó and a better ability to "diversify a portfolio" ó than most of the flash-in-the-pan millionaires that frequented his first flagship restaurant, Aqua, in the late 1990s.
He's teamed up with hotel partners and sports figures (Andre Agassi was an early investor), ventured away from seafood to open steakhouses and upscale gastro-taverns, and expanded into a dozen other markets beyond San Francisco throughout the past 15 years. With a new venture, Wit & Wisdom Tavern, opening at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore in November and a 2011 "Restaurant of the Year" award from Esquire for his eponymous San Francisco flagship, Mina might be a man on the move; but he's also rock-solid in his original market. We missed him by 15 minutes at the Food & Wine All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas, but tracked him down a week later to secure this Q+A.
Restaurants: Over 15, including MICHAEL MINA, NOBHILL TAVERN and BOURBON STEAK Location: Various in the U.S. Type of Cuisine: Contemporary and Comfort American Accolades: Two James Beard Awards, Culinary Award of Excellence, Robert Mondavi, 2008 Chef of the Year Bon Appetit
JustLuxe: You first rose to fame with high-concept seafood at Aqua, and though youíve diversified over the years, you always return to seafood even though itís not as easy as steak, or as trendy as, say, pork belly. So tell us, what is your favorite thing about fish?
Michael: There are so many species of fish that the possibilities are unlimited! So many different techniques that can be used to cook it, so many flavor profiles to work with, and a great assortment of textures.
JustLuxe: Different restaurants of yours have different signature dishes, and those dishes sometimes change with the times. Is there any dish in specific that is, in your opinion, eternal?
Michael: Based on customer feedback and popularity, Iíd have to say tuna tartare.
JustLuxe: What do you love the best about your career? ?
Michael: The best part is the gratification that you give people through dining memories and experiences. And food breaks all of societyís barriers in that itís something that everyone has in common ó so itís great to be a part of that.
JustLuxe: Whatís the biggest challenge?
Michael:Never enough hours in the day!
JustLuxe: What inspires you?
Michael: The change of the seasons is always a source of inspiration for me! Summer the most because there is so much available at your fingertips.
JustLuxe is a luxury Web publication providing objective analysis and information to affluent consumers to assist with their decision making, such as chartering a yacht, purchasing a jet membership card, booking a luxury hotel, traveling to a specific destination, or buying real estate. Our writers conduct interviews with industry executives and leaders in their fields, analyze product offerings and review the Web sites of leading companies to ensure our readers have up-to-date data to make informed decisions. Consumers can find purveyors of fine luxury goods, services and travel solutions throughout the pages of JustLuxe via content or with our advertising partners. See our Best of Luxury high-end brands and partners.