The first thing people think about when it comes to Thanksgiving, is the feast. So fitting it was to experience a Turkey-day celebration with chef Michael Mina and family at their home in Marin County. Although it was Michael's day off, he was joyously slaving in the kitchen preparing all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings and then some. Absent of his signature black buttoned-up chef's jacket and comfortably donning a relaxed white polo with denim and sneakers, this was Michael Mina in his enchanted element. His passion for cooking and being in the kitchen was apparent from the moment we stepped foot in the house. Like the perfect host, he wanted to make sure we were well fed, and continually well fed throughout the day. No surprise the man has accumulated 18 restaurants across the country with several more to open in 2011. Michael Mina loves feeding people and people love eating his food.
Today at the Mina house, there were no perfectly-plated tuna tartares, caviar parfaits or tableside lobster pot pies which he has become so identified with in his restaurants. Instead, there was the homey, attack-and-eat by hand plate of ribs in the backyard with the kids and the intoxicating balm of roasted garlic-rosemary turkey breasts which filled the Autumn air. Despite the laid-back casualness of it all, it wouldn't have been a signature Michael Mina experience without a little sumptuousness added in. As if our overflowing dinner plates weren't a bolstering reminder to hit the gym first thing Black Friday, Thanksgiving at home Mina style included a sultry bowl of butternut squash lobster bisque and a colossal pan of not-your-mother's steamy black truffle stuffing. Also on hand was the most succulent medium-rare prime rib accompanied by a generous portion of side dishes - Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, carrots, crab cakes, mashed potatoes and gravy.
Thanksgiving day is all about giving thanks and reminding ourselves what we are grateful for. Besides the obvious gratitude for the bountiful feast that was in front of me, Thanksgiving with Michael Mina reminded me that when an individual creates a living incorporating what they are passionate about in life...even on their days off, they are going to do it with fulfilling gratitude.
Despite the fact that Michael Mina "the chef", is now a business man and brand name with an ever-evolving and expanding restaurant empire, he is someone who began his career in the industry because he simply loved food, loved to cook and loved sharing it with others. Little did he know when he enrolled at the C.I.A. over twenty years ago, that one day he would look back knowing that he employed thousands, mentored many, and fed millions in his lifetime. On this Thanksgiving evening, he and his wife Diane donated the leftovers from our festive spread to the local food bank.
Like Michael, I've learned that when you make a choice in life to recognize your innate gifts, and pursue your dreams, the road may at times be rocky, but it will be passionately rewarding. The holidays are always reflective. I don't know if it's because they remind us how fast time goes by or if it's because they make us think twice about how we spend or waste our lives? Or maybe it's just that we overindulge during these times and the food coma makes us even more contemplative? Whatever it is, it's important to ask yourself what are you thankful and grateful for today? How do you spend your days? How do you want to spend the rest of your life?
Just remember...it's never too late to follow your dreams. Michael Mina - a young aspiring cook from rural Washington State, who had big dreams of one day cooking in a big city. Today, at age 42, he has numerous accolades and 18 restaurants under his belt. Chef Michael Mina is proof that when you combine gratitude and hard work, dreams can come true.
Happy Thanksgiving from Food Fashionista.
For some wonderful Michael Mina Recipes, including a Sweet Potato Souffle' and a Butterscotch Steamed Bread Pudding, visit HERE
For more information on Michael Mina's Restaurants, visit HERE