We contacted Chef Mina because we knew he’d have something to say in honor of Toque’s launch. You no doubt have heard about Michael the chef, but do you know Michael the man? He’s usually way too busy between 17 restaurants and his family to reveal much about himself personally, but here he weighs in on what it takes to be good, when to get out of the way of great ingredients and the eternal joy of caviar.
Is there camaraderie or competition between chefs?
The culinary community is very supportive and has been since I can remember. People believe we’re all rivals; of course we’re competitive, but we’re all good friends too.
If you had a blog, what would you write about?
Hmmm, good question. Sports, maybe.
How do you know if you’re good?
I am always striving to be better, and I receive the most pleasure when guests dining tell me what a delicious meal they’ve had. If they think you’re good, that’s what matters.
Is there such a thing as over-finessing in the kitchen?
Chefs that are fortunate enough to work with small farmers, producers and foragers depend on those partners for their quality products. I like to let those true flavors stand out, without much interference from me. Simple steps in the kitchen make those flavors pop and remember that the best ingredient is sometimes the one left out.
Do chefs still wear toques?
Not in my restaurants.
Name five great ways to eat caviar.
Caviar on: blinis; my Caviar Parfait; a spoon!; with vodka; with champagne
The most superb customer you’ve ever had and how you keep the customer first.
All of our guests are superb and they all come first. If it wasn’t for our guests, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. I keep that in mind every day.
Your favorite kitchen utensils and why.
Potato ricer – it can be used for so much more than potatoes
Microplane – same, so many uses
Chef’s knife – sharp and well-balanced (weight), it is always a go-to tool
Boning knife – I do like my fish!
Kitchen shears – great for herbs, some finishing work
Mina has some great things going on right now; stay tuned for the news. But the real news is that he’s a great guy, a superb chef and is capable of catching a fish or two.