Known for his unwavering passion for food, Chef Michael Mina is known for his dedication of over two decades where key celebrities such Michael Jordan and the U.S presidents have had an opportunity for tasting the Chef’s creations.
Known for spearheading the award-winning restaurant MINA Brasserie at Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Financial Centre, DIFC, this Michelin-starred chef and founder of MINA Group has build a restaurant empire over the years.
“Managing 30 restaurants is no small feat and I am genuinely blessed to have an incredible team whose dedication, passion and creativity have been pivotal to our success,” Chef Michael Mina tells us in an exclusive interview with him.
Known for his ingenious craft and passion in the culinary world, he has undoubtedly made his mark in the F&B industry and continues to focus on simple yet technical dishes such as the King Salmon, Marinated Lamb Chops and the signature evolving Tuna Tartare recipe that has been on recipie map for over 20 years. all crafted from carefully sourced ingredients.
To delve into his career and passion for cooking, Emirates Man spoke to him to see his journey throughout the years.
How did your journey begin as a chef? What was your childhood like when it came to cooking?
I was born in Cairo, Egypt, into a very social culture with a busy dinner table daily. Siblings, parents, cousins and friends would all come together and break bread and not just on occasions. This continued throughout my childhood, even in the U.S. My home was my first restaurant, and that’s what brought on my fascination with food and hospitality. Today, I carry on this same sentiment at all my restaurants. I consider them to be an extension of my home and try to accentuate that feeling to every one of my guests. Come in, enjoy the small moments and silly jokes or important discussions, and share some great food while you’re at it. My journey began professionally when I enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. My education gave me the foundation to add technicality to my sentimental connection to food. Practice was the secret ingredient, which is why I spent my weekends working Chef Charlie Palmer’s kitchen at Aureole. I got to be part of great teams and learn from remarkable chefs, setting me up for my first major career ‘highlight’ as Chef de Cuisine, under the guidance of Chef George Morrone. We were tasked with developing a concept and creating a menu for an upscale seafood restaurant in San Francisco and grasped the opportunity. On my second day in the city, a major earthquake rocked the Bay Area, but I was so determined to build something great that I was almost unfazed and made it to work on time. In 1991 we unveiled AQUA and received rave reviews and national acclaim. That would be my home until 2002, where I would eventually lead the kitchen as the executive chef and receive some of my brightest recognitions. Looking back at it now after founding MINA Group with more than 30 restaurants, it’s almost surreal to reflect on my journey.
Describe the story behind MINA Brasserie and what can guests expect from their dining experience.
Simple food, cooked with technical prowess and excellent. A brasserie is meant to feel homey and relatively relaxed, yet you can expect to have moments of deep appreciation when you taste the food – whether it evokes a childhood memory or captivates you with the perfect balance of flavour. While brasseries are French by invention, ours stretches the definition to include modern European and Mediterranean inspirations. In terms of atmosphere, the restaurant is a culinary oasis nestled amidst the sizzling foodie paradise that is Dubai. The restaurant is understated yet infinitely chic – making it a place where you can feel free to be your true self while enjoying the finer things in life. It is after-all located at the Four Seasons.
Over 30 restaurants operate under the MINA Group – how do you manage to stay creative and draw inspiration through different concepts.
Managing 30 restaurants is no small feat and I am genuinely blessed to have an incredible team whose dedication, passion and creativity have been pivotal to our success. We all work very closely together, ensuring that our concepts remain fresh and innovative. One of our greatest sources of inspiration for us is the vast array of experiences we gather from our travels. Exploring diverse cultures and culinary traditions provides a rich tapestry for us to draw from. We also make it a point to stay in tune with the latest trends, ensuring that we’re not just keeping pace with the competition but striving to set the benchmark ourselves. Every single day, our mantra is to be better than the last. Creativity, for us, isn’t just about coming up with new dishes or restaurant concepts. It’s about refining our craft, pushing boundaries and always keeping our guests at the heart of what we do.
View this post on Instagram
You have a deep connection with food and for evolving legacy recipes – what’s one key dish at the restaurant that has been perfected year after year?
Our Tuna Tartare recipe has a legacy, spanning over 20 years. It was certainly one of the dishes that I grew up with and one that captured quite some attention across my restaurants. Alongside my team we’ve been inching the recipe closer and closer to perfection for more than two decades.The most recent innovation to the recipe happened in June 2023, with the introduction of string-caught sustainable Blue Fin Tuna from Spain to replace its yellow fin predecessor. The Spanish Blue Fin Tuna maintains a luxurious diet of Carabineros shrimps, giving it a meatier and richer consistency. We serve the Tuna cured, to trap its flavours, and balance its richness with a pleasantly acidic habañero sesame oil and pine nuts.
What are the hero dishes at MINA Brasserie?
Dubai has such diverse tastes, being a salad bowl of cultures, as I believe it’s been said! Guest favourites and stand-out dishes are continuously evolving. We’re unveiling some new dishes at the moment including an ode to France – Escargots à la Bourguignonne with herb butter and grilled sourdough. This is a creation that embodies what a brasserie is – elegantly simple and infinitely alluring. The Chargrilled Lamb Cutlets with Matbucha barley and pomegranate is another impressive dish which embodies European precision while showcasing a subtle touch of my Arabian heritage. We will also be serving a locally caught Red Snapper recipe with asparagus, crushed citrus potatoes and charred tomato relish. As for long-standing favourites, our Truffle Gratinée with mimolette cheese, ziti pasta and truffle cream are amongst the most praised. Our guests tend to love it as it puts a lavish twist on what is typically a comfort food. The King Crab Spaghetti has also been a recent standout, and last but not least, my signature evolving Tuna Tartare recipe has been on the map for more than 20 years now!
Tell us more about the ambience of the restaurant?
Guests of MINA Brasserie will be welcomed by a dynamic environment, elegant yet informal, timeless yet modern. The outdoor terrace comes alive with lounge seating, lush green trees, and plants giving the brasserie an enticing warmth. Journey to the bar to find traditional aperitifs and hard-to-find spirits from around the world. You’ll also enjoy an in-depth wine list featuring special library collections from Burgundy, Bordeaux, and California. MINA Brasserie reminds you that sometimes real-life shines just a little bit brighter than even the most vibrant stars when you have the pleasure of great food, great drink, and unparalleled hospitality.
What have been some of the key milestones in your career?
I’ve been blessed with a great journey and many moments for the memory book. One of the achievements I remember fondly and take pride in would be the first star at my flagship restaurant MICHAEL MINA. Being recognized by organisations such as Michelin, James Beard Foundation, Gault & Millau and multiple leading food publications is something to be treasured as testament to me and my team’s hard work. Another great milestone I’ll never forget is cooking for Michael Jordan, one of my childhood heroes! I’ve also had the pleasure of cooking for three U.S. presidents. Opening over 45 operations is no easy feat, and takes a level of commitment and evolution. I consider it a great success having spearheaded MINA Group while still managing to stay close to my true love, the kitchen. MINA Brasserie is a big part of this, as my first venture outside of the U.S.A. Under the auspices of MINA Group, he has opened over 45 operations around the world, including the Michelin-starred MICHAEL MINA, Chef Mina’s flagship restaurant in the heart of San Francisco, which represents the culmination of his core culinary philosophies, Middle Eastern heritage, lauded chronicles as a chef and restaurateur, and personal character.
How would you describe the F&B scene in the Middle East?
I would say the scene here is both thriving and budding if that makes sense. Looking at Dubai for instance, the city boasts truly impressive restaurants, founded by renowned chefs. The city attracts some of the globe’s best talents and you can pick whatever cuisine you can think of and have multiple world-class options to choose from. This has been the case for years now, but in a sense the industry is just getting started. Michelin, Gault & Millau and World’s 50 Best amongst others have just entered the fray, incentivizing chefs to push the envelope year after year. The knock-on effect of this will definitely result in evermore remarkable dining experiences in the short to midterm. The same can be said for the rest of the region where some of the best dormant talent has begun to awaken. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching multiple homegrown brands flip the script and open successful flagships in some of the world’s top culinary cities.
What lies ahead for the future of MINA Brasserie?
We are absolutely thrilled about our recent Michelin recognition, which is such a huge testament to the dedication and hard work of Chef Rami Nasser and the entire team. This has truly only intensified our ambition and our desire to get better every day so we can achieve that Michelin rating. I’d say the future of MINA Brasserie looks brighter than ever.
For more on luxury lifestyle, news, fashion and beauty follow Emirates Woman on Facebook and Instagram
Images: Supplied & Feature Image: Instagram @minabrasseriedubai