October 27, 2016

Tour de Stage: Las Vegas – Michael Mina


From steak houses to fine dining restaurants, Michael Mina represents excellence and consistency. His signature restaurant, Michael Mina, at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is quality every step of the way. The restaurant offers its customers refined seafood dishes and tasting menus with French- and Japanese-inspired ingredients that create an excellent balance of the menu.


For more than seven years Chef Benjamin Jenkins managed the kitchen at Michael Mina—helping it earn a Michelin star in 2008. And now, after many years of working at legendary restaurants like Jean-Georges Steakhouse and L’Atelier de Robuchon in Las Vegas, and with 10 years cumulative experience with MGM Grand, Chef Jennifer Murphy was running the operation at Michael Mina at the time we visited.


Laura’s Stage at Michael Mina


During my stage at Michael Mina, I got to experience the workings of a huge operation at the Bellagio Hotel, where approximately 6,000 employees work. Staging with Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas was a brand new experience for both Sayat and myself. This national union represents more than 60,000 members that include food and beverage, entertainment, and cleaning services. Full one-hour breaks, excellent benefits, clean uniforms for each shift, and high hourly pay, among others, are some of the benefits that employees associate with the Culinary Workers Union get on a daily basis.


Rules and regulations are many. Jobs are set and work hours are very strict for the employees. Cooks and dishwashers have a list of task to do and can do nothing outside that list. For example, dishwashers cannot help with prep and cooks and chefs are not allowed to clean or take another’s job tasks. In addition, there is a monthly review for the cooks and supervisor that helps the Hotel to keeps updated records of the employees.


At Michael Mina Restaurant, three cooks work the morning shift to do the prep and fresh pasta for the tasting (seasonal, signature, vegetarian) and pre-show menus, along with the à la carte menu. For dinner service, three cooks run the line, and chefs and sous chefs also help during service. During my stage, I helped cut, and blanch vegetables at the grill station. The cook explains to me that fabricating seafood and meat were not part of his list for his job.



Sweet corn ravioli with Maine lobster and Parmesan foam


Customers favored the extravagant dishes like the signature Lobster Pot Pie with truffle cream and the Surf and Turf with Wagyu beef, lobster, Hudson Valley foie gras and black truffle—sold for $125 dollars on the regular menu. Michael Mina is also one of the few restaurants that serves a whole roasted foie gras.



The Michael Mina signature Vegas-style Surf and Turf


By the end of service, Chef Jennifer, gave me a quick tour of another restaurants at the Bellagio Hotel. The connection and the system between restaurants work for everyone. Stock is made by the hotel to share with all the restaurants. Ingredients, or even cooks, are shared between them if needed—it only takes a phone call to ask for anything.



Sturgeon caviar and smoked salmon parfait with crème fraîche and shallot-potato cake


It was an excellent and unique experience to be guided by an optimistic and hard working female chef that showed me the huge operations of MGM and how Michael Mina Group operates within it.


For more food photos, adventures and stories from the travels, visit Sayat and Laura’s instagram at @LauraAndSayat.