Asher Miller is a Turnaround Specialist

Here's the thing: I'm not a Mall of America person, for reasons too numerous to tally here. (MOA fans, please: Let's just agree to disagree, OK?) But since Nordstrom is the new Dayton's, I grudgingly find myself occasionally navigating those Death Star-size parking ramps, a nail-biting exertion that invariably triggers a larger question. You know: Where to eat?

"Elsewhere" is my not-so-inner snark's usual reply. But lately I've been rethinking that response, because Asher Miller is cooking at the megamall.

Yes, Asher Miller, the skilled chef who ran the Walker Art Center's 20.21 for the past three years, until the museum pulled the plug in March. Although he's traded, employer-wise, one dining conglomerate -- Los Angeles-based Wolfgang Puck -- for another -- Chicago's Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises -- I'm wondering if, after a few months at his new post, Miller is still adjusting to the culture shock.

Think about it. One day you're toiling in rarefied proximity to Rothkos, Oldenbergs and Motherwells, in surroundings designed by a Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm, and the next you find yourself in a workplace sandwiched between H&M and Urban Outfitters, with the sounds of Toddler Tuesdays in the background. Still, Tucci Benucch diners should be thrilled by the news. I know I am.

Miller announced his arrival not by press release but with a brief "daily specials" menu. Our server proudly handed it to us and my first thought was, "Chef-crafted options?" A miracle, truly.

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By Rick Nelson


(June 28, 2011)