Why is San Francisco so ripe for culinary adventure? We attempt to peal the surface of this question by asking a few of the restaurants featured at our Get Hungry! gallery show currently up at Lomography SF to reveal a little more about their process, what inspires them and something you never knew…

What do you think is the most important ingredient for good food?

Quality ingredients are key, but for me it is about more than just the ingredients; it is about the balance between acidity, sweetness, spice and richness.

What is one thing that inspires you to come up with a new dish?

I get my inspiration from so many different things in life – my travels, my kids, gorgeous product and produce, flavors from other dishes I’ve tried. It’s difficult to pin point just one thing because cooking, and eating, is a multi-sensory experience, and I use all of them when thinking about new dishes.

What do you feel makes your restaurant unique?

At Michael Mina, we aspire to engage guests’ every sense by offering an interactive dining experience, with shared plates and tableside service that inspires conversation. We present guests with innovative twists on the foods and drinks they crave and are comforted by, ensuring the dining experience is both exceptional and familiar.

What is the most delicious thing you have ever eaten?

I still think about the white truffle rice ball at Masa in NYC. It was sushi rice rolled like a snow ball, and then rolled on a cutting board covered in shaved white truffles. So simple, yet ridiculously delicious.

When did you know you wanted to be in the business of food?

It was at an early age for me. I had taken a part time position at a local family restaurant in my hometown. Within the first year of that job, I was running both front and back of house, and realized I loved the challenge and excitement of it all. I also was taken by the feeling of family in a restaurant. I eventually was drawn more to the kitchen and from that time on I knew I wanted to be a chef. I realize how lucky I am to have found my passion at an early age – and to still be invigorated by it, and make a living at it.

How would you describe the overall concept of your restaurant?

Michael Mina presents modern American cuisine combined with Japanese ingredients and French influence. The menu reflects my philosophy of balanced food combining sweetness, richness, spice and acidity; I create familiar dishes, elevated by innovation and technique.

Tell us something that not many people know about your restaurant.

Our Head Sommelier, Josiah Baldivino, recently introduced his “Flashback Fridays” program, where every Friday guests can sample a variety of exquisite older wines by the glass, from the critically-lauded to the cult darling. One of my recent favorites was the 1983 Swan Pinot Noir Russian Valley.

You can see Michael Mina’s dishes through a plastic lens on display until Saturday April 28th, more details here.