Creative Cuisine: Consistently serves excellent food in a creative way.
Liver: reviled by some and cherished by others. But even the haters might have a hard time turning down General Tso Chicken Livers, chef Tory Miller's creative take on a Chinese classic.
Miller says a surplus of chicken livers provided initial inspiration for the dish, which is on the menu of his new Asian fusion eatery, Sujeo. "We go through a lot of chickens," he says.
Figuring out what to do with the livers turned out to be pretty easy.
"Right away we knew we wanted to do a version of orange beef or sesame chicken," says Miller, who is also the executive chef at L'Etoile and Graze. Miller pushed it a step further, also using chicken thighs, legs and sweetbreads.
"When you eat everything together you wouldn't know," he says. "That's how we get you. We're sneaky."
Miller says the creative process for planning menus is "sometimes very easy and sometimes very hard."
He meets with all his sous chefs, and one key question guides the process at each eatery: "What is coming into season?" says Miller. "Seasonality helps our creativity because we're very in the moment."
Miller says the Madison palate has expanded in recent years, and he sees his job in part to introduce new flavors and experiences to diners. He says it was important to him, for instance, to offer chicken feet, a traditional dish on a dim sum menu, and that it took some time to get it right.
"We say at Sujeo, it's either delicious or it's not."
Miller, who nabbed the James Beard Foundation's 2012 award for best Midwest chef, says he also relies on his servers to "sell" the vision.
"That is one of the joys I have as a chef," he says. "I work with great people at all the restaurants. Everyone is so passionate and can really get behind and understand the vision we have. Even if they think it's weird, they'll feel my love for it and try to exude that to the guests."