High-level chess moves in the world of San Francisco restaurants today as news breaks that chef/restaurateur Michael Mina has poached The Ritz-Carlton's executive chef Ron Siegel to take on the executive chef role at his flagship Michael Mina restaurant. Having been at The Dining Room at the Ritz and its new incarnation as Parallel 37 for roughly eight years, Siegel's decision no doubt comes as a shock to The Ritz-Carlton higher ups. But the move to the Michael Mina restaurant enterprise isn't necessarily that big of a leap in terms of stability or salary, and Mina certainly made it worth his while. Not to mention the two chefs shared a kitchen back in the Aqua days, and later at Charles Nob Hill. Minutes ago, Eater caught Mina on the phone to ask him some burning questions, leading into Siegel's first official day in September.
Congratulations on the big hire! I am so excited. I'm jumping out of my skin! Ron and I have stayed in touch through the years. We've lived near one another, but since he left me at Aqua for Masa's, I never thought I'd see him again in one of my kitchens. We literally already sat down and started working on menu items.
When did the conversation with Ron start? Couple weeks ago. I don't think it's a secret that he wanted to do his own restaurant. And I literally called him to propose this and see what his response would be, and he was so passionate and went right into telling me why he would do this in a second.
What were some of his reasons? He's been in the limelight, he's had the rising star chef nods, the four star reviews, and he's satisfied with his accolades. He knows that magic can happen in this kitchen and he's excited to help create that here.
From your standpoint, why make this hire? Ron is not only a great guy, but he has an infectious, fun energy. I really wanted to have someone I know to take on the day-to-day of this restaurant. I wanted someone seasoned who could lead a team. Another thing about Ron is that he builds a family where he works. If I'm not going to be here every day, I want to make sure someone is creating that.
How will the new hire affect the menu at Michael Mina? Within six weeks, we should have new menus well dialed.
How much will you two be in the kitchen together? How will you work together? We'll always work on ideas together, just as we did at Charles [Nob Hill] and Aqua. We both share the philosophy that two minds are better than one. If I'm here, we'll run the line side by side, or I'll run the line to free Ron up to do other things. I actually do that at all my restaurants across the country for one month out of the year.
Do you anticipate being re-reviewed in the coming year? You know [laughing], I am always anticipating being reviewed. I'm obviously very excited about this. One of the real reasons I think it's a good move for the clientele and for the city and for people like you, is because I have more than one restaurant. Anyone who doubts that the passion is there on a nightly basis, will now know that it is. I couldn't have found a better person to align with and I want to open the restaurant up for people in the industry to look at what we're doing again.