Chef at Max Oyster Bar, West Hartford
Scott could you please tell us about how you ended up here?
Sure, I was in Colorado for almost ten years, working in restaurants and hotels, but I’m originally from the Connecticut area – New Haven. So I really wanted to get back here, and I put my resume online and was offered the position at Max Oyster Bar, which already had a great reputation. And I've been here for eight years.
Just talking about purely the seafood for a second before we get into the personality of the restaurant at Max's… what’s the big difference other than having it flown in with working with seafood in Colorado vs. here in Connecticut?
Pure and simple, I'm working with fishermen instead of talking to people on the phone. So I've formed relationships with people, and I make it my business to know where the fish is coming from, how long it's been out of the ocean until it hits the plate of our guests. I'm sure we'll speak about farmers in a little while – it's the same relationship I have with farmers, how they look at quality.
Can you tell us who a couple of your local fishermen are?
Sure, We buy our local seafood through a Plantsville company called the Gulf Seafood Company. We buy all of our scallops and our royal red shrimp from the Lobster Brothers in the Stonington area. We buy a lot of our oysters from Bloom and Son, which are down in Norwalk, more oysters from Briar Patch in Milford. We are running along the shoreline in Connecticut, and we know our oysters. Our daily catch is whatever we get from the Stonington area – we'll always be bringing in fish from the local waters.
If today is my first time visiting, coming in for lunch, what do you recommend that I eat?
Well I would never let a newbie come in and not try the oysters. We have eight types of oysters from around the country, typically one or two from Connecticut, one or two from Maine, one or two from Canada, and one or two from the west coast. It's a progressive tasting, similar to what you have with wine and beer with sweetness, softer textures and melon like finishes from the west coast. For our local clams, a lot of people say it has higher salinity and a more mineral-like, familiar flavor.
I understand you're doing the Chef-to-Farm dinners with Rosedale Farms right now, could you tell us a little more about that?
We started our Chef-to-Farm dinners five years ago – Max's Chef-to-Farm dinners. Marshall Epstein and I were out on the farm walking around and I felt like it was the perfect place to do it. It's evolved. We're doing different farms now. Lebanon at the Farmer's Cow, Coventry, about six farms around the state. When you're eating at a locavore restaurant that has a local product, but the educational piece is tough. But when we take you to the farm, it's a true educational piece. You can take a lot away from it and feel real good about what you're eating and understand why local is better, and why supporting local farms is better. Supporting local farms is something everyone should be doing!
What sort of dinners to you have coming up?
We just had our Corn Dinner which went really well, and our Catch Dinner which was our ode to local seafood. We have our Tomato, Tomato dinner at Rosedale, and then we have another dinner at Farmer's Cow in Lebanon, our second annual Beer, Bluegrass and BBQ Dinner.
Sounds like there are lots of different personalities as well as locations so people don't have to drive too far.
Something we're also experimenting with this year is a vegan dinner. We've been doing these dinners for five years, and we get a lot of requests for vegetarian and vegan meals. We will actually have a vegan chef with us, and we're very excited for that.
Anything else you'd like us to know about working with the Max Group?
We're in it for the guest experience. I’m fortunate enough to work for the Max Group, which is an unbelievable team – everywhere you go, you hear about service, and that really stands out. We do our part by serving great food, but the biggest piece of our success is the people behind the scenes, the knowledge of the staff, and how they treat the guests.
Scott Miller talks about the Max Restaurant Group
Max Oyster Bar's Chef-to-Farm dinners
Running a seafood restaurant in Connecticut vs. Colorado
Oysters / Tips for a first-time diner