October 12, 2015
Pensacola chef Irv Miller has been paving the way for up and coming chefs and fine dining on the Panhandle for decades and his gratitude for cooking on the coast is palpable. “There’s a smile on my face everyday down here, I think it’s like they say, ‘where thousands live and millions wish they could.’”
When Miller arrived in Pensacola in 1982 there wasn’t really a culture of fine dining, so he opened a little French restaurant called Les Saison’s before moving on to Seaside’s Bud & Alley’s, and in the process became one of the pioneers of the Florida Cuisine Movement. “I had guys coming to my backdoor bringing me fresh catches of things I had never used before, trigger fish and different kinds of grouper. Those fisherman really helped steer me toward what became my menu.”
Miller is now the executive chef for the award-winning Jackson’s Steakhouse in downtown Pensacola and has just authored a new cookbook called Panhandle to Pan: Recipes and Stories from Florida’s New Redneck Riviera. He brings a long and lauded career to the Oyster Cook-Off as one of this year’s featured chefs.
“I’m making a Low Country Oyster Bake featuring collard greens and ham hock with cornbread topping and served with andouille cream,” said Miller. “It’s the way African Americans often made it, a real traditional southern dish.”
Miller once presided over one of the culinary world’s most prestigious traditions, cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for the James Beard Foundation in New York City just after 9/11. “I’ve cooked at the Beard House a handful of times,” said Chef. “And it’s always great fun. That Thanksgiving was really an honor. Honestly, I just felt tickled to be invited.”
With so many chefs contributing to the Oyster Cook-Off who have been nominated for a James Beard Award, Miller is excited to help pick a winning oyster recipe. “The JB Awards have become a very big deal,” he said. “They mean that all eyes are on you, that you are doing something cutting edge and you have to stay on your toes. Everyone is looking to these chefs to be an example. It’s added pressure but it’s also exciting to see what they can do.”
Miller shares stories of cooking on the coast live during our chef demos, Saturday, November 7 at 11 a.m.