Miller began his culinary career by doing odd jobs for a mom-and-pop
restaurant in Naperville, Ill. This Culinary Institute of America grad
enjoyed the restaurant business so much that he spent most of his
first paychecks visiting fine dining establishments to train his
palate. Today he’s turning other folks onto the delicious joys of
locally focused cuisine at HOM restaurant in Brookfield.
Tell me more
about your beginnings as a chef, visiting restaurants as a high school
in particular really attracted me called Vie Restaurant in Western
Springs. I wrote a letter to the chef, explaining how I wanted to go
work for him for free a couple of nights a week. I worked for free for
seven months, then they hired me. (I got) a really good foundation on
Western European-influenced food. They had a very big emphasis on
using local products from farmers with whom the chef and owner had a
very strong relationship."
Tell me more
about HOM’s locally focused cuisine.
‘local’ can really mean anything within the state of Wisconsin or
Illinois border, but what we focus on is developing relationships with
farmers and suppliers. When we have those relationships it means more
to the people in the kitchen, and it allows us to respect the
ingredients a lot more. We try to take everything that we can get our
hands on, and we buy a lot of excess produce during the spring, summer
and fall, then we do a lot of preserving of those ingredients to use
in winter and early spring."
What is an
example of using preserved food?
"We had a
lot of really beautiful green beans come from Bentgrass Farms in
Mayville in late July so we bought 100 pounds. We pickled them, and
now they’re used in the garnish for our chicken entree. We also use
some of the preserving liquid to make a vinaigrette that becomes part
of the sauce for the chicken. We got some really nice Wisconsin
peaches, and we did a brandy peach aigre doux. We puree some of the
peaches for a Wisconsin butter cake — a play on the St. Louis gooey
butter cakes — and use some of the preserving liquid to make a
sauce, and we round out that dessert with an almond ice cream."
What are your
good triple cream cheese with some really crusty baguette. Salami and
prosciutto, then anything chocolate. Right now our pastry chef has a
dessert called campfire s’mores. It’s served in a mason jar and it’s
got a graham cracker cake, then chocolate ganache and white chocolate
marshmallow ganache and graham cracker crumble we smoke. It’s
What are the
kitchen accoutrements you can’t live without?
good wooden spoon with a flat edge. Metal spoons called kunz spoons
— we get them from JB Prince in New York. And a fish spatula. They’re
easier to move around ingredients in the pan, and they’re slotted so
it helps drain off a lot of grease if you’re cooking a meat. It also
has a flat edge so you can scrape up the sauce in the pan if you need
to do that."