What's NOT on My Resume: Michael Mina

By Kathleen Squires  |  December 12, 2013

No one starts out on top, especially in the food business. In this weekly column, chefs and restaurateurs across the country share the stories of their humble beginnings.

With the opening of Michael Mina 74 in Miami’s iconic Fontainebleau Hotel, the renowned chef's restaurant count officially rose to 19. With an empire that spans from Arizona to Wyoming, he's one of the country’s most notable and successful chefs. Mina has even cooked for three US Presidents. Still, few people know where Mina got his real start.

“My first job was as a busser and dishwasher in a small town called Ellensburg, Washington,” Mina says, pausing, “It was at a truck stop.” Mina was a teen at the time and there was not much restaurant variety in Ellensburg, his hometown. Eventually, he worked his way up to fry cook, and even in the world of short-order, he began to catch the restaurant bug. “It gave me the people skills necessary to succeed in this business and I immediately developed a work ethic from that experience,” he says. It also geared him up for the sometimes cutthroat nature of the work. “I learned right away that the industry is competitive, even when you are a dishwasher. Other people want that job you have, no matter how menial, so you have to work very hard to keep it."