Egyptian-born chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Michael Mina knew what he wanted to do with his life the moment he saw a TV profile of San Francisco restaurant Stars—at age 17. He wanted his own San Francisco restaurant, a dream he realized with the creation of the legendary seafood spot Aqua. Mina originally landed in Vegas when he was recruited to open Aqua at Bellagio, now the home of his namesake restaurant on the Strip. Mina also owns and operates American Fish at Aria, Stripsteak at Mandalay Bay and Nobhill Tavern at MGM Grand.
Most delicious destination: Thailand “I’m currently obsessed with Thai aromatics like kaffir lime, lemongrass, fried shallot and chilies. I’m traveling around Thailand right now, and these flavors are amazing.”
Favorite condiment: Gochujang He may be excited about Thai food, but Mina loves this pungent Korean creation, a fermented mixture of red chili, soybeans, salt and rice. “It’s the next sriracha!”
Favorite kitchen tools: Vita-Prep blender and pizza oven The pro tool Mina can’t live without is the high-speed Vita-Prep. “It allows me to achieve refined textures and flavors that aren’t possible with other tools.” But at home, the wood-fired pizza oven is the most popular option with his family. “My favorite food to eat at home is pizza from my Wood Stone oven. I get my boys involved and we have the best time.”
Most memorable meal: Napa Not everyone remembers when a legendary French chef held court at the Rio; the late Jean-Louis Palladin opened Napa there in 1997. “That was my most memorable meal of all time, when Jean-Louis Palladin was at his peak and every dish was off-the-charts delicious.”