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Cooking for a President and Most Memorable Meal

    AMERICAN FISH By Michael Mina
Executive Chef Michael Mina

Following a very special cooking demonstration in his kitchen, during which he illustrated for us four amazing fish preparations, TravelsinTaste had the privilege of chatting with celebrity chef Michael Mina in his restaurant, AMERICAN FISH by Michael Mina at Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. With two namesake restaurants -- in Las Vegas and San Francisco -- and 16 others that he owns across the United States and Mexico via Mina Group, the restaurant management company he owns with tennis star Andre Agassi, Chef Mina is an authority on the world's best flavors. We therefore asked him about his favorite local restaurants, his most memorable meal and what it's like to share his culinary creations with world leaders such as former President Bill Clinton.

TravelsinTaste:: You've cooked for so many people at the White House. Do you want to discuss any one experience?

Michael Mina: I can tell you that Bill Clinton actually came here. It was right after he had left office. He came here and he came to Nobhill. It was a party of 12 and it was probably my most memorable experience because it was the first time I had met a president and I am a big fan of his. He knew it, too, because within 10 minutes he was asking me to sit at the table and talking to me about everything. He wanted to know all about the food and then he got up with me because he loved the bread and wanted to see inside the bread oven. Obviously, he's extremely charismatic. It was a feeling. It was definitely a feeling.

TravelsinTaste:: What has been your most memorable, once-in-a-lifetime restaurant meal?

Michael Mina: It's hard because I have many. The key, as you said, is "once in a lifetime." It's interesting because it's just very memorable for me. It was the first time I'd ever really sat and dined at a restaurant that I just was completely enamored by. It was Chez Panisse and I went on white truffle night when I first moved to San Francisco. I had been to a few good restaurants, but Chez Panisse is so different; it is so different. Especially that it was white truffle night because everything there is extremely and obviously product driven. I remember every single part of that experience. I've had millions -- not millions, but probably 20 other really memorable experiences -- but the first one that comes to my mind is probably that one.

TravelsinTaste:: Do you remember what you ate that night?

Michael Mina: Oh yeah! I had a really simple salad that was shaved with white truffles and then a pasta course -- a ravioli course that to this day was the most melt-in-your-mouth pasta I've ever had. Paul Bertolli was the chef there at that time. It was the first time I had a ravioli like that. To this day it's the best I've ever had. It was really memorable.

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