Have ‘dinner with the Millers’ at their new series

Husband and wife team up to host dinner parties
Have ‘dinner with the Millers’ at their new series
Photo by Andrea Behling
Tory Miller and Kristine Miller holding sons Miles, 4, and Kwan, a fresh new babe.

In an effort to get back to what made them fall in love with cooking in the first place, Tory and Kristine Miller have come up with a dinner series that is as if they were inviting guests into their own home.

“Dinner with the Millers” will be a twice monthly takeover of Sujeo’s noodle bar to host a dinner party for 16 guests. And the husband-and-wife team plan to do it without any helping hands in the kitchen. The two will be the sole menu planners, cooks, servers, bartenders and dishwashers for the evening. And they’ll serve food they like to eat.

“It’ll be just like if you come to our house,” Tory says.

It sounds like a lot for an already busy couple — Tory heads four restaurants: L’Etoile, Graze, Sujeo and Estrellón, and Kristine is mom to three, one of which is only a few months old — but the idea for this dinner series is special for both of them.

“The thing I’m excited about for Tory … he does so much running around and so many different things, so to actually get him into a kitchen cooking a meal again is really exciting,” says Kristine, who first met Tory in the kitchen when she was working as a pastry chef in Madison.

They’ll serve dinners without an agenda, Miller says. “I want to make food that I want to make, that I want to eat, how I want to make it,” he says. “I cook every day … but I don’t cook a whole meal for someone and say, ‘I made this for you. I’m glad you like it.'”

Have ‘dinner with the Millers’ at their new series

The Tuesday twice-monthly series will likely be from 6-8 p.m., and the first two dinners are planned for July 17 and 24. Tickets will go on sale on all of the Deja Food Group websites, and ticket prices will fluctuate based on the menu.

One thing Tory stresses about the dinners — they won’t be able to accommodate dietary restrictions. But the menus will be available online ahead of time.

Some dinners might be steakhouse themed, and Tory will serve ribeye how he serves it at his house. Some menus could have a diner theme featuring cheeseburgers, or they might dish up a pasta with fresh vegetables. Be prepared to be served some type of cheese for a starter, they say, as nearly every meal at the Miller household starts with the Wisconsin staple.

“[There will be] a lot of throwbacks to things that were favorites that we’ve made before together or things that we developed together,” says Kristine, who owned the now-closed Dough Baby Bakery. Her and Tory used to host pizza pop-ups together with doughnut-style crusts when the State Street bakery was open.

“Dinner with the Millers” reconnects the couple in the kitchen, and it offers Tory the opportunity to stretch his creative (and James Beard award-winning) culinary muscle a bit more. “I go to the market twice a week and I’m always inspired there,” he says. “And sometimes I see ingredients that I’m like, ‘Oh man, I have a bomb idea,’ but I literally can’t put it on [the menu] anywhere.”

A benefit of hosting this series is that it allows the Millers to see familiar faces while also meeting new people at Sujeo, a restaurant that reflects Tory’s Korean-American roots. “I want to reconnect this space with my core audience, because I think a lot of people are like, ‘Yeah, L’Etoile and Graze, we know that.’ But it’s like, Sujeo is actually a really awesome restaurant and we make a lot of really good food here and it’s us behind it. And a lot of people are like, “Where is that?’ Because everyone goes by it at like 40 miles per hour to get out of town.”

But the dinners are as much about what the couple gets out of it as it is inviting people into the restaurant.

“I’m really excited to cook with Kristine,” Tory says. “I love to do this as a job, I love to make what people love to eat. I just want to get back to doing some of that once in a while.”

Their proximity to their guests at “Dinner with the Millers” is an example of how accessible and down-to-earth the high-profile Madison couple are. When I came into Sujeo to talk to them about the series, Kristine came with two sons in tow — 4-year-old Miles and months-old son Kwan, asleep in his carseat. Tory was in the noodle bar with Jamie Hoang taking an iPhone picture of a soup bowl that would later be posted to Instagram in honor of Anthony Bourdain. When I asked to take a picture of them for this article, Tory scooped up Miles, who delightedly let out a squeal. Kristine gently lifted Kwan, blinking awake, from his carrier. I felt like I was in their living room.

It was one of few windows of time the couple had to talk that week. “It’s been busy lately,” Kristine says.

The dinner series, in a way, is meant to allow them to slow down a bit — to get back to a time when they cooked with more passion and spontaneity.

“To me, this industry used to be a lot more fun because it was just a group of people who really cared about each other that just wanted to cook food. Now sometimes it just kind of gets lost,” says Tory. “Before we all started chasing each other around on Instagram trying to out-do each other, I just cooked, everyday, in one kitchen. And I met the love of my life there.”