Border Grill executive chef showcases Day of the Dead
By Susan Stapleton
A trip to Mexico opened chef Mike Minor’s eyes to Día de los Muertos, the Mexican celebration that gives friends and family a time to honor and remember those who have died. He found cemeteries decorated with food and trinkets that beckoned the souls of the dead to return. He discovered altars dressed with orange marigolds and skeletons.
“To see the passion from the culture is so amazing,” he said. “We don’t have that in America.” He knew he had to bring the idea to Border Grill, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s restaurant, whose kitchen he heads at Mandalay Bay.
For the week of Oct. 30-Nov. 5, Border Grill celebrates the holiday. Guests can write the name of a loved one who passed away and tie it to an altar while noshing on a Day of the Dead-inspired menu created by Minor, available after 4 p.m. daily. Look for specialty cocktails such as the blood orange ginger margarita that uses Monin ginger and blood oranges, and The Green Goblin made with Crystal Head vodka, honeydew, lime and mint.
Minor showcases his Mexican culinary skills with black tamales with slow-cooked chicken and Diablo ceviche made with Hawaiian red snapper, candied pumpkin and Peruvian aji panca sauce. For entrées, Minor has blackened Hawaiian walu in an ancho cream sauce and pork in mole negro. Even the dessert menu features traditional dishes found at Día de los Muertos celebrations, such as a ginger apple cake.
Minor is a rare breed in the culinary scene in Vegas. He moved to Vegas at age 8 and worked as a pool boy for Jackie Gaughan, the king of downtown Vegas who once owned 25 percent of the land there, running errands for the local legend. “I consider myself the last of the Mohicans in the restaurant world,” said Minor, who did not attend culinary school and instead worked his way up by beating on back doors to find jobs. He became the youngest executive chef ever at the Hard Rock Hotel when he was 22.
“I’ve been in the restaurant industry for 18 years. I’m the one who learned from everybody,” Minor said.