Michael Mina


Michael Mina, 27, was appointed executive chef of Aqua in January, 1995 by owner Charles T. Condy. Mina is also the executive chef of Charles Nob Hill, Condy's latest restaurant venture. One of the youngest chefs to run a world-class restaurant, Mina has captured the imagination of diners and received the highest acclaim from restaurant critics nationwide. He was recently nominated "Rising Star Chef of the Year" by the 1996 James Beard Foundation Awards.

Raised in Ellensburg, Washington, Michael's culinary career started at the age of 15 when he took a job at a small French restaurant as a prep cook. He quickly moved into other positions and by the age of 17 was working 60 hours a week while still attending high school.

Following high school Michael enrolled in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. At CIA, Mina met Charlie Palmer, chef-owner of the highly acclaimed Aureole Restaurant in New York. While in school, Michael worked weekends at Aureole-- Friday night plating desserts, Saturday day in pastry and desserts, and Saturday night on the hot line.

Upon graduating from the CIA, Mina moved to New York City and continued at Aureole as tournant where he was introduced to all aspects of Aureole's kitchen. Following Aureole, Mina took a position as sous chef at Drew Nieporent's Tribeca Grill in New York.

In mid-1991, Michael was offered the chef de cuisine position at Aqua in San Francisco. Eager to be involved in the inception of a restaurant, Michael moved to the Bay Area to conduct the hiring and training of the kitchen staff and assist with menu creation. In December, 1991, Aqua opened to rave reviews. Four years later, Aqua is a nationally renowned restaurant.

In the fall of 1995, Aqua owner Charles Condy acquired San Francisco's historic Le Club with plans to transform the site into an intimate, French-inspired restaurant called Charles Nob Hill. Mina collaborated with Condy on the planning and presides as executive chef of Charles Nob Hill which opened in December 1995.

Mina's cooking philosophy revolves around his deep belief in simplicity. "Keep it simple. The first rule regarding ingredients is not to add elements that don't belong," says Mina. "In my experience, the best ingredient in a dish is the one you leave off."



Aqua opened in the fall of 1991 to the delight of San Francisco fine dining enthusiasts. The culmination of San Francisco-based investor Charles Condy's vision of a world class seafood restaurant with a distinctive California feel, Aqua brings a matchless culinary experience to San Francisco. After an extensive, two year, $ 1.2 million renovation, Aqua began turning out dazzling seafood creations and garnering the highest critical acclaim. Architecture, from the restaurant's interior to the culinary presentation, is clearly a passion of the owner. Aqua's stunning space and glowing atmosphere contribute to a unique and elegant experience. Aqua's Executive Chef Michael Mina has been lauded for his achievements, and is widely regarded as one of the brightest culinary stars in the country.
Fact Sheet

Location: Downtown San Francisco, in the heart of the Financial District

252 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone (415) 956-9662
Fax (415) 956-5229

Style: World-class, specialty fish restaurant

Owner: Charles T. Condy

Executive Chef: Michael Mina


Lunch 11:30 am—2:30 pm Monday—Friday
Dinner 5:30 pm—10:30 pm Monday—Thursday
   5:30 pm—11:30 pm Friday and Saturday

Closed on Sundays and major holidays
Reservations recommended


120 seats in the dining room
14 seats in the private dining room

Private Parties: Aqua welcomes private groups and also caters outside events

Parking: Valet parking available after 6:00 pm. Parking garages in Embarcadero Center, and street parking after 6:00 pm.


All major credit cards accepted except Discover Card
Wheelchair access
Smoking in bar and lounge area
Full bar service


Grilled Sea Bass

by Chef Michael Mina

Serve 6


  • 6 5 oz sea bass filets
  • 1/2 t olive oil
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper


  • Season bass with salt and pepper, brush with olive oil.
  • Grill fish on both sides and finish cooking in preheated 500 degree F oven.

Green Apple Reduction


by Chef Michael Mina


  • 24 oz fresh apple juice, strained
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, small parisian balls
  • 3 Red Delicious apples, small parisian balls
  • 24 French round carrots (baby carrots)
  • 2 celery root, batonnet cut (match stick)
  • 1 Ib assorted Wild Mushrooms (clamshell, chantrelle, oyster)
  • 2 T fines herbs (Italian parsley, chervil, chives, thyme)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter


In a sauté pan heat olive oil.

Sauté celery root until a light color. Reserve.

Blanche carrots. Immerse in cold water, drain. Reserve.

In a large sauté pan heat olive oil. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, cook to a light color.

Add remaining ingredients, except fines herbs, warm through 1 minute.

Finish sauce with 2 T butter and fines herbs.

Place mashed potatoes in center of plate. Put bass on top of potatoes. Spoon sauce over bass and around plate.


Foie Gras Whipped Potatoes

by Chef Michael Mina


  • 4 potatoes
  • 3 oz heavy cream warmed
  • 2 T rendered foie fat, reserved
  • salt


Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Purée.

Season with salt to taste.

Add heavy cream. Keep mixture warm. Set aside.

Add foie fat to potatoes, warming through. Adjust seasoning. Potatoes should be medium thick consistency.

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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