Face Time: Michael Mina

December 20, 2013

mina

Fresh off of opening his 19th restaurant, Michael Mina is no stranger to milestones. Earlier this week, the Michelin-rated chef celebrated the fifth anniversary of Bourbon Steak, his swanky steak house in Georgetown’s Four Seasons (2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) that concentrates on meat done well. We talked to the San Franciscan while he was in town to celebrate the occasion.

You can’t physically be in the kitchen at all of your restaurants. How do you communicate your vision to all the chefs?
I tell my cooks they have to taste as they cook. I tell them to look for a balance of acidity, sweetness, spice and richness. It helps me not only come up with new dishes, but it helps people who work with me understand what’s missing from a dish.

Is there a dish that stands out to you on the current Bourbon Steak menu?
John Critchley [the current executive chef] does a rockfish tagine. I think it will be around for a long time. He pressure-cooks the pine nuts and treats them like beans.

What void do you believe Bourbon Steak is filling in D.C.’s dining scene?
It’s a more modern take on the classic steak house. We didn’t come into D.C. hoping to be just another steak house. We wanted to be one of the top restaurants in the city. Just because you have “steak” in your name doesn’t mean you can’t be. Our meat is great but the menu is very well-rounded.

On your website Cook Taste Eat (cooktasteeat.com), you give away a lot of your recipes and techniques. Why’s that?
I don’t believe in secrets. I think the more education you give your staff and customers, the better off everyone is. What are you hiding these days? People are just going to find it on the Internet. The recipes are still a lot of work. If you want to go do it, knock yourself out.

Why do you think some people are afraid to cook meat?
Doneness. People are very worried they’re going to buy this expensive cut of meat and cook it improperly. The problem that most people have is they don’t want to cook on high enough heat to properly sear or grill the meat.

What kind of things do you cook for yourself at home?
We’re blessed because we live in Marin, San Francisco, where everything grows. We have an acre that we’ve planted on, and we have a lot of wood fire equipment. We let guests walk around and put things in a basket and then throw it in the oven and make pizza out of it.

Do you have any holiday cooking traditions?
We have a very strict tradition. My wife’s mother is Italian and she would make crab cioppino every Christmas Eve. And Christmas day is prime rib. Every year.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of The Washington Post Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@wpost.com.
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The Manolo · December 20, 2013