Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 74

2. The elegant façade of
Michael Mina in San
Francisco, the former
home of the chef's
illustrious Aqua.

Wow, that's amazing.

3
2
3
that your mastery of balance at such a
young age and exploring it in California
where you had the freedom to do so
was huge.
There was one other freedom-which never
occurred to me when we did it, but afterwards
I feel like it helped my career-was the fact
Aqua was a fish restaurant. I was never boxed
into Italian, French, or Japanese, so I was able
to look at food a lot differently in the sense
that if I wanted to do a dish that had Italian
or Spanish roots I could. The one similarity
you see when you start looking at all different
cuisines is balance.

Is that what led to the idea of doing
trios, wanting to explore a dish in a few
different ways?

I wanted to push myself to the next level,
something you have to do every day. I felt like
I had the strongest group of people you could
ever put together. I know every chef probably
feels that way, but I truly feel like the people
around me were strong and we could go to the
next level. A lot of people were saying, 'Why
don't you open a small restaurant where you
cook at it every day and do eighteen-course
meals?' I said, 'Because that's not me, that's not
my personality.' We had all different types of
guests, and a lot of them were at a high level,
but they didn't want to sit through
twelve courses.
I started playing around with the trios
concept, and like everything, you take any cut
of meat and there are always three cool things
you can do with it. Even if we were taking one
product, like a roasted piece of foie gras, we'd
find three different flavor profiles. I guess that's
the long answer to tell you that I truly believe in
keeping somebody's interest throughout a dish.
I'll always argue that doing a twelve-course
menu is still easier than doing an appetizer
and an entrée and having guests walk away
completely blown away by two courses.

074

November 2013 hospitalitydesign.com

Having sampled the trios, you're spot-on
in that you get a chance to try out three
different approaches to the same cut of
fish or the same animal in different ways.
Whenever you do so, you feel as though
you're drawn to these explorations in
a way that's a lot different than when
you're just given one plate of food.
It was that point in my career, too, where I
wanted to do something where you had to
design the china because china didn't exist for
trios. It's fun to take it from the very beginning
and build a restaurant where you are doing
things through a much different pair of glasses
than most people are wearing.

You were at Aqua for eleven years, and
then you got a chance to go back to it
years later and get ahold of the same
space. What I loved when you told
me that you were doing this project is
that even though you weren't opening
a place called Aqua, and you weren't
recreating Aqua, you were channeling
its spirit in a way that was special-
insofar that moving Michael Mina there
meant designing the room in a similar
way with the same subcontractors
who built the space out the first time.
It's just like a Phoenix rising from
the ashes.

It's kind of like your first girlfriend; that's what
Aqua was. No matter what you do, your first
true love is someone you're going to remember
all your life, right? That happened for a lot of
people; it wasn't just me. There were people
who said Aqua sprung their careers in many
different ways, and it meant a lot to the city.
Everybody has a story about it, and that's what I
realized right when a retired subcontractor who
worked on the original kitchen with me called
and said, 'If you're going to redo the kitchen, I'll
come out of retirement to do it for you, and I'll
do it for free.'

Why go out and get a bunch of new people
who are going to want to tinker with it? I think
that's why people wanted to do it. They didn't
want to see somebody come in and destroy
that place.

It's cool, though, because you give
people a chance to reconnect to a new
project within that original space. I
had never been to Aqua, but when I've
eaten at Michael Mina with you, it feels
like it's the continuity of something
that's been going on a lot longer than
any of us. It's almost an ethereal kind of
connection to a timeline that you can't
even understand.

Your goal for every employee is understanding
how do they connect with people? How do they
befriend people and then how do they build a
long-term relationship with them? Those are
the three things that make up hospitality. The
magic of Aqua was that every time we were
hiring somebody we would sit down, and I'd
say to myself when I got up from the table,
Would I go have a drink with that person?
Would I go to a ballgame with that person?
Would I go out to dinner with that person?
They can technically be the best server in
the world, but the ability to befriend people
is one of those things you either have or you
don't have, and if you don't have it, if you
can't connect with people, well it's called the
hospitality business for a reason.

You do it extremely well: eighteen
restaurants, all around the same
philosophy. It's great. Any time you
walk into a space there is a feeling that
you're connected to the people who are
working there. Then you feel inexorably
connected to the food in ways that you
don't quite register. It just works on so
many different levels.
From day one, it was we're going to have that
high level of food, that high level of service, but
we're going to have a staff that's friendly and
outgoing. To this day, twenty plus years later,
I'm still waiting for the complaint letter that
says, 'My waiter was too friendly.' I haven't
gotten it. That magic is still at Michael Mina.
I'm not going to say that we never make
mistakes, but that's what we're always hiring
for. Front, back, it doesn't matter, it's trying to
find people who have the ability to befriend. hd


http://www.hospitalitydesign.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Hospitality Design - November 2013

Table of Contents
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - Intro
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - Cover1
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - Cover2
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 1
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 2
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 3
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 4
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 5
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 6
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 7
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 8
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 9
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 10
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 11
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 12
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 13
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 14
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 15
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 16
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 17
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 18
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 19
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 20
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - Table of Contents
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 22
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 23
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 24
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 25
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 26
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 27
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 28
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 29
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 30
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 31
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 32
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 33
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 34
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 35
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 36
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 37
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 38
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 39
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 40
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 41
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 42
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 43
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 44
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 45
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 46
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 47
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 48
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 49
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 50
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 51
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 52
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 53
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 54
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 55
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 56
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 57
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 58
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 59
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 60
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 61
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 62
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 63
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 64
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 65
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 66
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 67
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 68
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 69
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 70
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 71
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 72
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 73
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 74
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 75
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 76
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 77
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 78
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 79
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 80
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 81
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 82
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 83
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 84
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 85
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 86
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 87
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 88
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 89
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 90
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 91
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 92
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 93
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 94
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 95
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 96
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 97
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 98
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 99
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 100
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 101
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 102
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 103
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 104
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 105
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 106
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 107
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 108
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 109
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 110
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 111
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 112
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 113
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 114
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 115
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 116
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 117
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 118
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 119
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - 120
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - Cover3
Hospitality Design - November 2013 - Cover4
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201805
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201803
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201802
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201801
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201712
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201711
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201710
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201709
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201707
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201706
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201705
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/20170304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201702
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201701
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201612
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201611
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201610
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201609
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201608
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201607
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201606
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201605
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/20160304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/20160102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201512
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201511
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201510
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201509
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201508
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201507
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/expo2015_showguide
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201505
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/20150304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/20150102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201412
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201411
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201410
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201409
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201408
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201407
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/201406
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/20140506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/expo2014_showguide
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/20140304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/hd/20140102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201312
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201311
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201310
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201309
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201308
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201307
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201306
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201305
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20130304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20130102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201212
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201211
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201210
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201209
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201208
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201207
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20120506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201204
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201203
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20120102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201111
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201110
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201109
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201108
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201107
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20110506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201104
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201103
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20110102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20101112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201010
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201009
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201008
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201007
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20100506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201004
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201003
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_201001
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_200912
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_200911
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_200910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_200909
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_200908
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_200907
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_20090506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nielsen/hd_200904
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com