Michael Mina

Michael Mina

As impressive as it is that Spike Mendelsohn has cooked meals for Barack and Michelle Obama, Michael Mina has him beat: he has cooked for three United States Presidents. Born in Egypt and raised in Washington state, Michael began his culinary career at the age of 16, working in the kitchen of a French restaurant in his hometown. Upon graduating high school, Michael attended the University of Washington for one year, working at a restaurant in the Space Needle; it was there that he decided to dedicate his life to the art of cooking, and he transferred to the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Michael’s namesake restaurants in San Francisco and Las Vegas each hold one Michelin star, and his San Francisco location was named “Restaurant of the Year” in 2011 by Esquire magazine. Of course, Michael has won plenty of awards in his career, including the James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef” in 2002, Bon Appétit and San Francisco magazines’ “Chef of the Year” in 2005, “Restaurateur of the Year” in 2005, Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “Restaurateur of the Year” in 2012, and the Richard Melman award in 2009. 

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Michael does not subscribe to one specific style of cooking. As he puts it, “My philosophy on cooking is my philosophy on life: create balance and harmony.” Michael believes in making his dishes come alive, and he strives to do so by creating meals that strike the perfect balance of flavorful without being overwhelming.

The menu at Michael’s restaurants reflects his commitment to meals that challenge our perception of what flavors and ingredients go with others. Rather than focus on one or two complementary accessories with the main dish, Michael loads up the plate with as many varied flavors as possible. By doing so, he achieves the balance he is looking for, and the resulting dishes are noteworthy for their surprising flavor combinations. Offerings include phyllo-crusted blue prawn with sharlyn melon, heirloom tomato, anise hyssop, heart of palm, pluot, finger lime, yogurt, cucumber and grape; ahi tuna tartare with mint, scotch bonnet, quail egg, pine nut and garlic; duck and foie gras with bergamot mint, wild ramp, yellow peach, eggplant, gypsy pepper, Melrose apple, maitake, haricot vert, red miso and huckleberry; and Maine lobster pot pie with black truffle, cognac and lobster cream.