5 questions for Jason Miller, the 35-year-old chef who spent the past nine years opening Smith & Wollenskys all over the country. Now he’s primed to take the helm at David Burke’s Primehouse (616 N. Rush St.; 312-660-6000).
Q: You were 13 when you got your first restaurant job. What does a teenager do in a restaurant?
A: I was a busboy. Ever since then, after school, during vacations, I always worked in restaurants. Eventually I moved into the kitchen.
Q: Any formal training?
A: I went to the French Culinary Institute in New York. I’m not one to be in class for two years. I need to be out there, hands on. Just wanted the certificate to make it official.
Q: Chicago is loaded with steak houses. How will Primehouse distinguish itself?
A: Our steak is handpicked from our own boutique farm, Creekstone Farms in Kentucky. Burke and [his partner, Steve] Hanson bought a prize stud bull for approximately $200,000 to $300,000 to breed our own cattle. And we have our own dry-aging box. One entire wall of the aging box is going to be made from Himalayan rock salt, which imparts an extraspecial flavor to the meat.
Q: Are you in Chicago for the long haul?
A: Chicago to me is like New York–lite. The best of everything that New York has to offer but the people are nicer and it’s a lot more manageable.
Q: Can I quote you on that?
A: Sure. I’ll probably get a few death threats back home, but my feelings for Chicago are genuine.