Market Chef : Daniel Miller

August 22, 2011 |  by  |  Chef Demos

 

A map of the world stuck all over with pins, and strings pulled taught between them, would probably be a better way to tell Daniel Miller’s story than to try to give words. When looking over the responses he gave to the bio questions that all the chefs have been asked, I found that I was not inspired to wax poetic about his early childhood but rather to pack up and ship out. My head filled with images of tropical beaches and lust for adventure – it was all image and desire, words didn’t seem appropriate or necessary.That said, here we are 100+ words in – blogs are words and there’s just no way around that right now – and I guess we’ll just have to make it work. Food and cooking were Daniel Miller’s meal ticket before he was even in inkling of an idea in his mother’s mind, as his parents met in 1968 when both were working at the Rheinlander. His father later  learned to cook in the kitchen at the Hilton Hotel here in Portland, under the world renowned chef Willie Madsen. By age 13, Miller had the travel bug and took a dish washing gig at his Uncle’s German restaurant to save up money for a summer in Europe with his cousin.  He came back a wise-ass fourteen year old with pierced ears and an insatiable appetite for more great food and wine. Realizing that service industry jobs were a great way for a somewhat punky kid to make money and thus get and do what he wanted, he began bussing tables and selling  peanuts at ball games to put myself through Central Catholic High School (there are worse things a 14 year old could do with that money!) and then continued the tradition by waiting tables to put himself through Willamette University.After college, service was in his blood. Planning to just take a year and relax a little, he joined the opening team at the Black Rabbit Restaurant at Edgefield when it was still up in the air whether the McMenamin brothers would make the pour house famous, or end up in a poor house from their giant gamble. A year off became four, and he began to see that service and food were not just the means to an end, but for him they were an end in themselves.

From here, travel and food became the happily symbiotic givers and takers in Millers life, his life blood, really. A move to Honduras to scuba dive and bar tend followed by a jump up to Alaska to manage a restaurant, then down to the Virgin Islands to warm up and wait tables. More table-waiting in Atlanta, and then a little apple-picking in Ontario while living out of the back of a classic 1969 VW bus. Surely this was no cakewalk, but if you’re toes aren’t wiggling with the beginnings of wanderlust, or if you’re not JetBlue-ing  in another tab by this point in the story than you’re made of stone.

Finally, in the late 90’s, Miller and his father moved to La Push, Washington, home of the Quileute tribe, where his father ran a store and where they set up a salmon smoking business for the tribe. Smoking fish and roasting bones, living from scratch, Miller finally truely realized that as much as he enjoyed restaurants, what was truely moving to him about being around food was the unique sense of community that food can foster.

Finally he found himself back in Portland, working behind the bar and the Country Cat and working to create DuckSpoon.com, a website intended to capture the recipes and stories of his aging father on video for his children and childrens’ children. The site is up (in beta) at www.duckspoon.com and a browse through the various pages reveals brilliant idea as well as a deep love for food and the stories it tells; stories, flavors and memories worth preserving.

Check out the site and try a delicious green salad dressing from Miller himself here. See you at the Market!

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