Extending his reach to Seattle, Portland restaurateur Kurt Huffman has joined forces with Chef Jason Wilson of Crush in a nose-to-tail steakhouse called Miller’s Guild, projected to open late fall in the Hotel Max downtown.
Huffman has a reputation for picking talent. His company, ChefStable, has had a rapid rise in the RoseCity over the past decade, partnering with established chefs such as Andy Ricker in Pok Pok’s expansion, and with Greg and Gabrielle Quinonez Denton at last year’s hugely successful Ox, as well as betting on newcomers like Rick Gencarelli of the rapidly duplicating Lardo.
Huffman told Oregonian restaurant critic Michael Russell that he’d been in talks with different people in Seattle for awhile about doing a restaurant. “I needed to have a rock-solid project. I’m never going to find another Pok Pok, but I needed to have an anchor client, someone I believed in.”
Huffman called Wilson “a driven worker with a clear vision for the restaurant.”
Wilson opened Crush eight and half years ago with his wife, Nicole. The former Food & Wine Best New Chef and winner of the James Beard Best Chef Northwest Award in 2010 told me he’s excited about a new challenge and a new direction.
In an interview on KIRO Radio’s “Let’s Eat” Wilson said: “Crush evolved into modern-style cookery. Miller’s Guild goes in the opposite direction. We’ll be driving it with firewood, taking a nose-to-tail approach. It’s a really fun way to cook, primal, energetic, a visceral way to look at cooking. It brings you back to cooking’s roots.”
Menu testing started months ago. Cooking will be done on a nine-foot, tri-level, wood fired grill called The Infierno. Dan Barber has one at Blue Hill at Stone Barns; Tom Colicchio is putting one in his new Vegas restaurant. Having seen Ox’s four-foot model in action, I can see why Wilson describes the bigger grill as “menacing.”
As a hotel restaurant, Miller’s Guild will be on the hook for three meals a day. Everything will come off the grill, Wilson promises: meat, seafood, vegetables, even eggs and frittatas. There’s a bakery program in the works too. Nicole Wilson and Crush wine and beverage director, Jake Koseff, are on board as well.
Miller’s Guild may be just an appetizer for Huffman in Sea-town. He told The Oregonian: “I like the city. Fundraising is easier up there since there’s so much more money in Seattle. And it’s a wide open-market for what we’re doing.”
He also told Eater Seattle: “We do have a sandwich concept in Portland that I think could go all over the country called Lardo. I’m thinking of bringing it up to Seattle once we get a foothold here.” Having tasted Lardo’s signature porchetta sandwich (made with Tails & Trotter’s hazelnut-finished pork), and their “dirty” fries cooked in lardo (cured pork fat) and littered with pork scraps, hot pickled peppers and grated parm, I’m praying for that day to come. You’ll see why here: