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Menu Talk with Pat and Bret

Michael Mina emphasizes continuous education with Mina-versity

The chef and restaurateur works to create a corporate culture where everyone learns from each other


Chef and restaurateur Michael Mina has long made education of his staff a priority.

Born in Cairo, Egypt, and raised in Ellensburg, Wash., Mina studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., while staging under Charlie Palmer at Aureole in New York City. He then partnered with chef George Morrone to open Aqua restaurant in San Francisco in 1991, where he personally trained the kitchen staff.

He became executive chef Aqua in 1993 and the accolades started rolling in, including being named Rising Star Chef of the Year in 1997 and Best Chef in California in 2002 by the James Beard Foundation.

Then in 2003, with a decade of experience running restaurants, he founded the Mina Group, which primarily partners with different hotel groups to open restaurants on their properties, a strategy that allows Mina to focus on running the restaurants while the hotels focus on infrastructure, accounting and other issues. He now operates 38 restaurants under that model.

During that period he has focused on teaching as well as learning from his staff. He took the time with the onset of the pandemic to formalize that, and now the group has Mina-versity, a collection of online learning tools, including a database of some 40,000 recipes, that is frequently updated.

Mina recently discussed Mina-versity and his approach to running restaurants.

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