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Andrew Miller/Executive Chef, HOM

By JEANETTE HURT
Photos by Erich Schroeder

January 2014

Andrew 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 student.

"One place 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.

"The world ‘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 guilty pleasures?

"Really 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 unbelievable."

What are the kitchen accoutrements you can’t live without?

"A really 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."

 


This story ran in the January 2014 issue of: