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Chef Michael Mina on His Success as a Systems Driven Leader

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About this episode

#50. This week's guest likely needs no introduction. He's one of the most successful chefs and restaurateurs in America, with dozens of restaurants both in the U.S. and abroad. Chef Michael Mina is a three-time James Beard award winner, has earned Michelin stars, five Diamond Awards, and accolades from Wine Spectator, among others.

In this episode, Chef Mina sits down with our founder and CEO, Josh Sharkey, to delve into his career spanning three decades, sharing valuable insights and lessons learned along the way. Renowned for his company MINA Group and its delicious food creations, Chef Mina is also recognized as an incredibly systems-driven leader who prioritizes service and hospitality alongside cooking.

The episode begins with a heartfelt tribute to the late chef David Bouley, a mentor and inspiration to Chef Mina and our host, who passed away tragically just before the recording. The conversation explores Bouley's profound impact on their lives and the culinary world, serving as a cathartic reflection on his legacy.

Throughout the episode, Chef Mina shares his perspectives on leadership, entrepreneurship, and the importance of research and development in the restaurant industry. Despite overseeing a vast empire of restaurants, Chef Mina remains deeply involved in the creative process, emphasizing the value of hands-on involvement.

Whether you're a seasoned restaurateur or aspiring entrepreneur, there's much to glean from Chef Michael Mina's experiences and insights. Tune in to gain valuable lessons and inspiration for scaling your restaurant business. As always, we hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did.

Where to find Michael Mina:

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:


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What We Cover

(04:55) Remembering Bouley and the other legendary chefs who have recently passed

(10:46) The reasoning behind Chef Mina's desire for continued growth

(14:31) Why having a partner in your restaurant business is crucial

(17:21) The biggest thing on Chef Mina's plate right now

(20:45) How Chef Mina trains the new generation of cooks

(31:48) How Chef Mina gets involved in the R&D process in all of his concepts

(41:50) When R&D is truly done

(48:44) The biggest mistake Chef Mina has made in his career

(52:53) Bourbon Steak's new opening


[00:00:00] Josh Sharkey:

You're listening to season two of The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, a culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, we're going to talk to high performers in the food business, everything from chefs to CEOs, technologists, writers, investors, and more about how they innovate and operate and how they consistently execute at a high level.


Day after day, and I would really love it if you could drop us a five star review anywhere that you listen to your podcast. That could be Apple, that could be Spotify, could be Google. I'm not picky. Anywhere works, but I really appreciate the support. And as always, I hope you enjoy the show.


Today's guest likely needs no introduction. He's one of the most successful chef and restaurateurs in America. Chef Michael Mina. Chef Mina has dozens of restaurants in the U.S. and abroad. He's a three times James Beard award winner, he's Michelin stars, five diamond award, wine spectator, you know, the list goes on.


I've worked with a ton of chefs who have come through Mina's kitchen and one of the first things that I think of when I think of Chef Mina is, well independent of just the overall success and delicious food he creates, is that he's an incredibly systems driven leader. And he's also a chef that clearly understands the immense value of service and hospitality.


alongside cooking, right? That it's obviously just important and, and oftentimes more important to have great service. And it's cool to see that he stands behind that. And even though he is definitely a chef's chef understands the importance of service. Chef Mina and I took a little time up front to talk about the passing of the late, great chef, David Bouley, whom I worked for a couple decades ago.


Bouley had passed the day before we recorded this episode. It was just such a tragedy, really. It was tough, so I found myself just having to talk about it. He was far too young. I think he was 70. And it was really cathartic to take some time to discuss why his impact was so great. And just generally speaking about, you know, what he meant to us as chefs with Chef Michael Mina.


Given Chef Mina now has three decades under his belt in his career, most of what we discussed today were lessons learned and how he has changed and where he's maybe not changed so much as a leader, as a chef and an entrepreneur, it's really clear that as much as he loves scaling his business and continuing to build.


More opportunities for his team. He also has this really deep love of R&D and the many development process. He's still really hands on as a chef Which is pretty impressive given how many restaurants he has all over the place that his company operates Anyways, anyone that is scaling their restaurant business today or is planning to there's a lot that you can learn from our conversation today So as always I hope that you enjoy the conversation As much as I did.


Nice to meet you. We haven't met before. No. Which is kind of crazy, but nice to finally meet you. At least somewhat face to face. I've heard about you over the years. I cooking in New York back, you know in the day we would, yeah, we would hear about you but never really interfaced. We talk a little bit today 'cause you're finally coming to New York.


That's right. I think for the audience, I'm not going to like bother with a bunch of background 'cause everybody listening here. Likely knows you, you know, dozens of restaurants around the world, multiples of dozens, three times James Beard award winner, Michelin stars, Price Dryman, you know, Weinsberg, you know, you know the drill.


I have to ask you, just sort of kicking things off, like, how does it feel to open it in New York now? Finally? Cause you started in New York. Yeah.

[00:03:33] Michael Mina:

Yeah, I did. It's really exciting. I mean. Honestly, you know, it's been strategic to have taken the time to not open in New York because, you know, I raised a family, you know, I have two boys and how old, well, now they're 22 and 25.


And so now they're out of the house and doing their thing. And that was always. Really kind of that benchmark of saying, you know, you know, when you open in New York, you know, what type of a commitment that is. And I always said, you know, it's not even really a consideration until the kids were all settled out of the house and really had the time to do it.


And I think from that side, I think that was kind of one of the driving factors. And then I always wanted it to be the right, I wanted it to feel right. And this particular opportunity, just, you know, Being at the Essex house, being on, you know, being in Central Park, it really feels like really the right time and the right. Yeah.

[00:04:38] Josh Sharkey:

I'm New York based. I'm real excited. Thank you. To see you. A little tangent just for today, if it's, if you don't mind. Sure. Actually, the first time I heard about you two decades ago, I was working, I was cooking for Bouley and you've had a bunch of chefs, obviously, Sarah Rich, who I worked with her husband a lot and Raj, who's still working with you.


Man, I mean, it's crazy, you know, just personally, Gray Kunz was my mentor for many, many years, and Floyd Cardoz before that, and Bouley before that, and like in the last three years, all three of them have passed away, and I don't know if you knew Bouley, but I'd love to maybe take a minute to just talk about that, because

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