The Creation of Mah Jong's by Chef Mike

Why Mah Jong's ?

By definition, Mah Jong is a Chinese social game often accompanied by the theme of gambling. Over many years, it has been played in the "benevolent society/clubs" in the depths of Chinatowns across the globe, as well as in homes and public parks everywhere.

Chef Mike grew up in the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco in a two-story Victorian house where he lived with his grandparents, mom, and two older sisters. They were one of the five minority families living in a predominately Italian – Irish Catholic neighborhood.

His family was definitely on the lower end on economic income growing up, so his grandmother decided to boost family income by renting the extra bedrooms to merchant marines and U.S. Navy sailors that were on leave but traveled to various parts of Asia while on duty.

So, ingeniously, Grandma would host Mah Jong games in the kitchen on Wednesday nights, and Pinochle card games on Thursday nights. Chef Mike's grandfather would come home after work, as the personal chef for the Presidio Army base Commander, and cook food into the late night for the gamblers. Chef Mike, at nine years old, would make whiskey highballs for his new "uncles", and they would tip him twenty-five cents a drink! The Chinese laundry at the end of the block would have "numbers gambling" on Fridays also.

Thus, the origins of Mah Jong's restaurant dream.


Mah Jong's by Chef Mike Restaurant

Executive Chef Michael J. Doctulero first fell in love with the kitchen when he began cooking with his grandfather at a very early age. His fondest childhood memories are those of he and his grandfather spreading newspaper on the kitchen table and devouring fresh-caught Dungeness crab they caught off the San Francisco Marina pier.

Chef Mike began his culinary journey as a line cook at Rosellini's Other Place in Seattle where he further discovered his passion for seafood. After ten years of honing his craft in Seattle, he returned to his hometown of San Francisco to open Monsoon restaurant under the teaching of Bruce Cost, fortifying his knowledge in Pacific Rim cuisine.

Fast forward to Orange County, where he has worked for over the past thirty years, primarily at Scott's Seafood. Chef Mike has been creating sustainable dishes before they were industry catchwords. His cooking style reflects a philosophy that is timeless and approachable, yet also inventive and progressive.

He is also known for his" Omakase style" (Trust the Chef), weaving instantaneous six to seven courses to delight his guests. He is the only Orange County Chef to receive the Golden Foodie Award for Best Seafood two years consecutively.
His lifelong dream of opening "Mah Jong's by Chef Mike Restaurant" is finally coming to fruition.


I like to think my love for food and cooking began at 14 years of age, but as I put some though into it, that date can be pushed back even further. It could have been as early as the days my brother and i would wake up early on Saturday mornings and cook amazing food which only consisted of pancakes and eggs with a side of sausage, or waking up Christmas Eve to the smell of tamales being made and running into the kitchen just to dip a finger into the pork and chile filling for a taste while playing around with the masa.

I also have memories of going to the hometown of my parents in Mexico, and having so many fantastic scents that filled the air in the night time. I could never forget the way one of my uncles, who may have a bigger inspiration to my cooking than I realize, would butcher down a whole pig to make the best carnitas in his huge copper cazo to feed the whole family and town as well.

My journey begins with my first job as a dishwasher at Scott's Seafood Restaurant with Chef Michael J. Doctulero during my junior year in high school. It didn't take long before the kitchen took me over and I fell in love with it, all of it. The many characters you find in the kitchen, the love, the family that is amongst everyone, the heat, the pressure, and then the ahh at the end of every shift. Before Scott's closed, I began to actually cook in the kitchen and that truly ignited my passion.

Fast Forward to the Cannery Seafood of the Pacific with Chefs Joe Macias, Nhat, and Phillip Tangonan, and it was when the sparks really began to fly. There was where my kitchen knowledge and understanding came along, in a sense, on how to really be a cook. I flew from station to station, which consisted of pantry, saute, fish station, grill and middle, in no more than a six month time period. as well as learning about inventory and ordering.

Most recently, , I am truly grateful for being able to step into the doors of the amazing Taco Maria with
Chef Carlos Salgado and all the other great Chefs and cooks that I was able to cook and learn alongside with.
Being there I was able to hone my skills and really bring out the professionalism in me. It infused so much knowledge in food, ingredients, techniques, values and love not only in food but also in the family that is created
in the kitchen amongst each other, and brought me closer and closer to loving the profession.