A young chef introduced himself last summer by way of some of the most original food you’re going to find along the Delaware.
By Scott Edwards
Graham Miller’s summer-long experiment confirmed a truth he only just began to embrace: He’s a damn good chef.
The 26-year-old grew up in the kitchen. His parents, both chefs, own The Bridge Café, a modest spot with a scratch-made menu and picturesque views of downtown Frenchtown, New Jersey. “They’d always said I would make a great chef,” says Miller, whose warm eyes and easy smile betray his shyness. “I was really picky as a child. I didn’t like mustard. I could always, like, find out if my dad put a little mustard in something. I just had a really good knack for taste.”
But when you’re 20, encouragement can be misread as a directive, and a natural ability can feel toxic. For a few years, Miller consciously avoided cooking, only to realize that it was his ticket out, not his anchor. At the end of 2012, he moved across the country to Napa Valley and enrolled in the CIA. “I just felt like I needed to reach out and do something different, take a challenge, basically,” Miller says. Read: He needed to know, once and for all, if he could cut it as a chef.
Miller returned to his parents’ kitchen this summer, but on his terms. A few nights a week, he ran a pop-up restaurant there called . His menus were small but ambitious. And every two weeks, he scrapped them and started fresh. Most were inspired by a region—Southeast Asia, Mexico, New England—but every dish was an original iteration, sometimes mildly so (a fairly pure lobster roll), other times quite brazenly (the banh mi burrito).
“I make the food as I would want to eat it, really,” Miller says. “I could make it the authentic way, the traditional way and plate it up real fancy. I know how to do all that. I just have this mentality where I prefer a casual environment over an uptight, white-tablecloth environment. I’m a simple guy.”
Familiar or not, as the summer wore on, the 16 seats filled up faster on Platform nights. Miller’s plan is to re-launch the pop-up at the first sign of spring, a target that feels painfully far away at the moment. And this time there won’t be any parameters. Now that he’s finally gotten out of his own way, it’s time to start mining what’s shown the potential to be a brilliant imagination.