Pursuitist was lucky enough to snag James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Mina, owner of restaurants like BOURBON Steak, Michael Mina, PABU and Stripsteak, for a quick chat surrounding the 10th-anniversary celebrations for his BOURBON Steak, DC at the landmark Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, DC.
We asked the San Francisco-based celebrity chef about cooking—of course—as well as what he likes to do in his off hours. Read on for the exclusive QA.
You recently opened a new San Francisco restaurant in an unexpected place – Salesforce headquarters. It has a Hawaiian influence. Tell us a bit about that decision.
That concept is the Trailblazer Tavern in the Salesforce Tower – Marc (Benihoff) asked me to design it. He’s passionate about the Aloha spirit and Hawaii. We wanted to come up with a concept that would really fit the building and atmosphere. I’m a big fan of Hawaii and spend a lot of time there. I found this husband and wife team with great experience and a real grasp of the Aloha Spirit.
I really enjoy partnering with which chefs when we’re doing cuisine that I’m curious about or interested about but don’t [personally] have the heritage and the authenticity that you really need.
What else have you done lately? I hear talk of a grocery store and a food hall?
Yes, I opened a little health and wellness grocery place in my home state of Washington. And in Hawaii, I’ve just done a food hall – The Street – with the same chefs as Trailblazer Tavern. It’s 14 chefs, with each doing unique dishes that honor their heritage.
What do you think is next? Is there an international expansion, a type of cuisine you want to focus on or to continue these great partnerships?
A big part of where I’ve been focusing my time is the partnerships – I love them. It’s just great for all of my employees to learn all of these different cuisines and cultures. And it just is really what food’s all about. Food is supposed to bring people together. I’ll not stop doing this for as long as I possibly can.
Do you ever get bored? Want to change things up?
I took Michael Mina, San Francisco, which is my flagship, my Michelin starred restaurant, and I took that in a very different direction and made that a 100% Egyptian Middle Eastern high end tasting menu. I love doing things that are so different for people in and just giving people a whole history lesson on Egypt and all of the things. That’s been a big part of my passion and focus lately.
What do you eat when you’re home with your family?
If I’m cooking on a stove, it’s simple pasta because that’s what everyone likes. We make a lot of clean pasta dishes at my house, but we try to cook outside a lot because I’m always inside at work. So the majority of the time, I’m cooking barbecue and barbecuing. I like always try to change it up to showcase different countries, different spices, different things. But, I would say probably the most often made dish at my house is Laffa bread, this bread that my mom used to make me a lot.
You love to experience food from different cultures. What’s a place you love to visit again and again?
I still like going to Japan because it’s so much about product and technique and history. I love like the refinement of everything. But my whole group travels – we do it every year and visit places where we’re working on concepts and cuisines. This year we’ll go to the Middle East. Last year we did an amazing trip to Italy.
When you’re not cooking, what do you do for fun?
I’m a sports junkie and fanatic and so it’s either, you know, playing, I’m going to, I’m mostly going to them these days because I keep hurting myself!