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Former Ellicott City and Hogan chef lands gig at Columbia restaurant

Matthew Milani once served as the head chef and co-owner of Rumor Mill, an Ellicott City restaurant that closed after a July 2016 flood caused structural damage. After a year-and-a-half stint cooking for Gov. Larry Hogan, Milani is returning to Howard County.
Matthew Milani once served as the head chef and co-owner of Rumor Mill, an Ellicott City restaurant that closed after a July 2016 flood caused structural damage. After a year-and-a-half stint cooking for Gov. Larry Hogan, Milani is returning to Howard County. (Baltimore Sun Media Group file)

A well-known former Ellicott City restaurateur has returned to Howard County in a new role.

Matthew Milani, who served as the head chef and co-owner of Rumor Mill Fusion Bar & Restaurant for more than nine years, is now the executive chef at AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia.

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Rumor Mill, an Ellicott City restaurant off Main Street, was known for small plates that fused Asian and traditionally Maryland foods.

When Milani fell on hard times after the July 2016 flood that ravaged the historic town, however, he decided to close the restaurant’s doors.

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When the flood hit on July 30, 2016, Milani, 43, rescued 47 guests and eight employees from water cascading into the restaurant. More than six feet of water filled the Rumor Mill, causing substantial structural damage to the building.

“Losing the relationships we had with our staff and our guests was more heartbreaking than actual money,” he said. “The town and people were very generous with not just our restaurant but all of Main Street.”

The building that houses the Phoenix Emporium in Ellicott City — which has stood in that spot since its construction in the 1850s — will soon be gone.

Milani, who trained at a Le Cordon Bleu culinary and hospitality program in Pennsylvania, landed a high-profile gig the next year as a chef for Gov. Larry Hogan, he said.

He worked at the Government House in Annapolis, which is the official residence of the governor, from March 2017 to August 2018, then started at AIDA in June of this year.

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Milani said he and the owners, Joe and Mary Barbera, “share philosophies about fresh food” and a love of food and wine.

“We are pleased to have Matthew join our AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar team. Both Mary and I are excited to have this talented and personable chef supporting our guests,” Joe Barbera said.

“Matthew had quite a loyal following, and we have heard from many of his previous customers many who have already sampled his food at AIDA Bistro. We continue to incorporate his specialties into our current menu. This is a nice culinary win for all of us in Howard County.”

Milani was chosen as Maryland’s 2012 Restaurateur of the Year from among 2,000 in the state by a jury of his peers in the Restaurant Association of Maryland. He has worked in the food-service industry since he was 15, according to AIDA’s website.

He said that as AIDA’s executive chef he will continue to build on the foundation of the restaurant and “hopefully take it to the next level and take guests on a really nice culinary journey together.”

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