Have you heard? Celebrity chef Michael Mina is opening a new place in downtown Seattle!
Photo by Leslie Kelly Jason Wilson, left, is buds with celebrity chef Michael Mina.
He was here recently, talking wine and food pairings and doing a demo at Taste Washington, as well as hiring staff for RN74, the wine bar scheduled to launch sometime this summer. The movie star-handsome celebrity chef carved out a little time in his sked to sit down and talk with me. Here's what I learned:
1. He's from here! Actually, he was born in Egypt, but grew up in Ellensburg. "When I was a kid, I'd go over to friends' house and we'd eat what they had raised, but they didn't call it farm-to-table back then," he said. He still visits the area regularly and is a sucker for The Hungry Mother burger at The Tav. (Which has got a thick beef patty, bacon, and a fried egg on it!)2. His first cooking job in Seattle was at the Space Needle. He also worked at Anthony's, but made his big splash on the national food scene wowing diners in the 1990s at the late, great Aqua in San Francisco.
3. Crush chef Jason Wilson worked for him at Aqua. "Oh yeah, Jason and I go way back," he said.
4. His wine director has magical powers over him. Mina happily changes recipes at the suggestion of Rajat Parr, a master sommelier, who got his start under the tutelage of hotshot Larry Stone. (Who, in another nod to the Seattle vortex, got his start at The Georgian at The Olympic.) "Yes, Raj is that good," Mina said.
5. He still cooks! Yes, Mina's got 19 restaurants from coast-to-coast, but when he's in da house, he's in the kitchen. "When we open here, I'll be in the kitchen, making sure everything is working the way it should be," he said.
6. And, talk about hands on, this Big Cheese even has a say in the playlists that set the mood for the dining room, listening to each and every item in the specially crafted set of tunes. Bravo, chef! (Oh, and here's a sneak preview of what you ladies can expect to hear when you go to powder your nose: the soundtracks to French movies! So clever, oui?)
Finally, while he's impressed with the quality of the ingredients he can source in the Northwest, the hunt for squab is vexing him. "It's my favorite bird," he said. Anybody wanna help the guy out? And, no, that doesn't mean going to pick off pigeons in your neighborhood park.