Jason Wilson's Smoking-Hot Project: Miller's Guild
By Leslie Kelly
November 1, 2013
Chef Jason Wilson had tears in his eyes at a recent hard-hat, sneak preview tour of his feverishly anticipated prime steakhouse venture with Portland restaurateur Kurt Huffman. No, he wasn’t crying tears of joy, though the James Beard award-winning chef-owner of Crush is thrilled about Miller's Guild, his upcoming restaurant at the Hotel Max, a breakfast-lunch-dinner and room-service endeavor laser-focused on top-drawer meat and seafood and local produce.
Rather, the eye-watering had to do with the dramatic nine-ft.-long Grillworks Inferno that’s going to be the star of the dining room - it was producing great volumes of smoke in the garage space set up to demo its magical cooking capabilities to friends, family and media. And then, the fire department showed up.
“We had done a test run the day before and everything was fine, but on the day of the event, I got a little carried away, putting more wood on, just to see what we could do,” said Wilson, who was a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2006, the same year as David Chang. Before the smoke got too thick, Wilson slow-roasted an Anderson Valley Ranch leg of lamb and a couple of saddle cuts, as well as pork belly and octopus. Fortunately, the 80-seat restaurant will have a specially designed hood with a premium placed on whisper-quiet venting.
Miller's Guild is scheduled to open in early December, and the space is beginning to look a bit like the hot-ticket dining room it’s sure to become. Contributors to the restaurant’s Kickstarter campaigns to support its cask-aged cocktail program and its efforts to dry age beef and the ranchers who raise the cattle will get invites to the soft opening meals. “It’s a unique way to support farmers,” Wilson said.
It’s also a novel way to share the vision of what the people involved in this project want to accomplish. The Miller's Guild Kickstarter page includes a video, an exhaustive background of the project with photos, even blueprints. So far, nine backers have kicked in $3,430, a long way from the $28,000 goal with 16 days left.