For this week's cover story I wrote a profile of Michael Mina. The prolific chef and restauranteur is about to open three restaurants this summer -- Pabu sushi bar near the Embarcadero on July 1, its adjacent Ramen Bar on June 30, and a Bourbon Steak & Pub in the new 49ers stadium in mid-August. I first became interested in writing a story him because, despite the 17 restaurants he already operates in the Bay Area and beyond, I didn't know much about the man himself.
And his relative lack of fame, at least compared to peers like Mario Batali or Bobby Flay, became even more apparent as I told my non-food-industry friends about the profile I was writing. "Who?" was the most common response. I wanted to find out why that was.
As I reported the story two things became clear: Mina's company, the Mina Group, is a well-run machine that allows him to keep on top of every detail of his restaurants, which is why they're all operating at such fine dining, three- and four-star levels. And then there were the people who had come through the Mina Group, all who had gone on to do bigger things in the food world. The company was a great incubator of talent.
There are many, many more talented people in his kitchens and restaurants now, or who have moved on, but here's a brief sampling of those who Mina helped and influenced:
Melissa Perello was an intern at Aqua before Mina put her in charge of the kitchen at Charles Nob Hill when she was 22. Now she's a chef and co-owner of the Castro's Frances, recognized by Bon Appetit, Esquire, and the James Beard Foundation as one of the best new American restaurants of 2010.
Ryan Cole started as a general manager for the Mina Gorup and eventually worked his way up to Director of Operations for Seattle and San Francisco properties. In late 2013, he opened the American bistro Stones Throw on Russian Hill with two other Mina Group alums: Chef Jason Halvorson and Tai Ricci, in charge of front of house operations.
Charles Bililies was promoted from culinary assistant to RN74 assistant manager at the Mina Group. He opened his first restaurant, Greek sandwich and salad shop Souvla in Hayes Valley, in April 2014, a concept that he thinks one day he might expand.
Bill Corbett was pastry chef at Michael Mina in the St. Francis before going on to work as executive pastry chef at The Absinthe Group. He's in the early stages of developing his own place, a soda fountain.
Anthony Carron started as lunchtime grill cook in the kitchen at Aqua and eventually became corporate chef during its most rapid time expansion. He's now heading up 800 Degrees, a fast-causal Neapolitan pizza chain that will have nine outlets nationwide by the end of the year.
Joseph Humphrey spent a few years as corporate chef during the early days of the Mina Group. He was executive chef of the now-shuttered Southern restaurant Dixie in the Presidio before opening his California gastropub The Farmer and the Fox in St. Helena in early June.
Lincoln Carson was the Mina Group's first corporate pastry chef and oversaw so restaurant openings for the company he lost track of the number (16 or 17, he thinks). He's now head of Superba Snack Bar in Venice Beach, a casual, all-day restaurant that has plans to scale.