As one of the country’s top chefs, Michael Mina has had his share of conventional TV appearances–Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, the Cooking Channel’s Food(ography).
But in a move that reflects food lovers’ growing preference for online and mobile content, Mina has shrugged off traditional broadcasting and instead is taking his show on the web.
Last weekend, Mina and co-founder Tanya Melillo launched CookTasteEat, a daily serving of video content featuring Mina’s dishes as well as featured recipes and tricks of the trade from guest chefs. It’s a well-considered effort, not only to satisfy the insatiable appetite for online cooking ideas and tips but also as a vehicle for bringing high-level cuisine to an audience who may not have professional culinary training but are more than up for the challenge.
Meals on Reels
At the heart of this 3.0 endeavor are the 24/7/365 videos, offering a daily dish like sesame-crusted ahi tuna, grilled cucumber salad, the alliterative fava bean falafel (Mina’s mother’s signature dish) and yogurt tahini, served up with exquisite photography and a 3+-minute video featuring Mina and Branch riffing on flavor, ingredient shopping and cooking techniques. Mina’s deft, uber-classic approach to cooking is heavily evident in the videos, creating a feeling of being an insider at the Culinary Academy.
“I really wanted to share my passion with more people, more often,” says Mina. “Creating a daily video program that broadcasts on the web and is available to everyone, allows me to do that.”
Co-host Michelle Branch, who is better known for her musical talents with multiple albums to her credit including The Spirit Room, Hotel Paper and the smash hit single “The Game of Love” with Santana, acts as the “every cook” voice in the kitchen, asking good questions, doing the critical tasting and revealing her own knowledge as a dedicated home cook. Branch reveals her own dedication to good ingredients and appreciation for insider tips to help her cook better. But she tries to represent the average person when she asks Mina things like “would we be able to get an ahi cut as thick as this at the grocery store?”
Mina discusses alternate techniques to compensate for a less-than-ideal ahi cut, providing a more approachable Mina who is attuned to the limitations of a consumer’s food choices at the market.
Delivering video each day is a daunting task no matter what the resources but CookTasteEat is meeting the challenge. Melillo appears to be pouring all of her time and resources into the venture as CEO and co-founder. “I work full time (and over-time) at CookTasteEat,” Melillo laughs. “It’s my top priority and will continue to be so for many years to come. Building a digital culinary media company for food people is my dream and it feels amazing to be doing it.”
With more of a high-level management background in consumer goods to bring to the table, Melillo nevertheless managed to get her Cordon Bleu degree at the California Academy a few years ago and helped launch Ram’s Gate Winery in 2010.
The Culinary Crew
Mina and Melillo’s “small and talented team” of business people, techies, chefs and writers will put the daily menu and recipe offering together every single day. Mina says it’s surprisingly a seamless integration into his hectic schedule running 20 restaurants nationwide including the Michelin star Michael Mina in San Francisco.
“It’s actually great because when I work on menu development with my restaurant chefs and travel around, we get great ideas of what we want to share on CookTasteEat,” Mina says. “That’s typically where the content development and testing happens – on a nightly basis in our kitchens. By the time it comes to filming the videos, it’s a relatively streamlined process because we’ve already been experimenting with these dishes.”
Special guest chefs who will appear soon on the site include Michael Chiarello, Charles Phan of The Slanted Door and Mourad Lahlou of the Michelin-starred Aziza. Rajat Parr, award winning sommelier, author and longtime colleague of Mina will orchestrate the liquid side of the equation.