Tory Miller

Chef Tory Miller prepares a dish in the kitchen at Sujeo, one of four Madison restaurants he runs with an ownership group.


The world will have to wait at least another week to see if Madison’s best-known chef Tory Miller’s cuisine reigns supreme.

The “Iron Chef Showdown” featuring Miller didn’t air Wednesday as scheduled, and the Food Network didn’t give Miller any advance warning.

About 50 people, some friends, some fans, turned out Wednesday night in the bar of Estrellón to watch the episode Miller taped this summer. Every seat was taken by 6:30.

Once the program came on at 8 p.m., the jazzy music was silenced and all eyes were on the one giant television behind the bar to answer the central “Iron Chef” question: “Whose cuisine reigns supreme?”

However, Miller and competitor Jenner Tomaska of Next Restaurant in Chicago were nowhere to be seen.

After about 15 minutes, Krys Wachowiak, one of Miller’s partners in the Deja Food Group — which runs the local restaurants L’Etoile, Graze, Sujeo and Estrellón — announced the network’s mistake.

Miller, who had been working in the kitchen at the busy Estrellón, came out as some viewers started putting on their coats. He was greeted by a few “woo-hoos,” and as people approached him, he immediately began chuckling and said, “It’s not my fault. It’s (host) Alton Brown’s fault, apparently.”

Although he got no immediate apology or explanation from the Food Network, Miller said that Brown said online that the show didn’t have the editing done for his episode.

“Supposedly they didn’t give anyone the heads up,” Miller said. “Hopefully it airs next week.”

Miller said he wouldn’t have promoted the show or the watching party if he’d known in advance. “It’s awesome that there’s so much support,” he said about fans who came to the bar and others who were watching at home. “I’m stoked for it to air next week, if that happens.”

A six-course, $125 dinner at L’Etoile on Sunday to celebrate Miller’s appearance on the show is still going on as planned, he said. The 100 seats sold out well in advance, and there’s a waiting list in case of cancellations.

Rochelle and Joe Guastella, of Sun Prairie, arrived 90 minutes early and felt lucky to grab the two remaining seats in the bar area of the Spanish, tapas-style restaurant.

“We’re foodies all the way around,” said Rochelle, who works in the building where Sujeo is housed and often gets Sujeo spring rolls for lunch.

“We love to cook. We love to eat,” Joe added.

The couple said they’re addicted to “Iron Chef” and believe that Miller’s chances of reigning supreme are excellent. “I’ve been telling all my friends I’m sure he’s going to win,” Rochelle said before the show.

The Guastellas each had one of Estrellón’s Wednesday burgers, made from ground brisket with American cheese and a special sauce containing Thai chilis and fish sauce. “At least we got a good meal out of it,” Rochelle said after announcement of the mistake.

Though partygoers were disappointed, that was the prevailing sentiment.

Courtney and Nathan Greenawalt, who own Old Sugar Distillery, hope to come back next week.

“We had a great time,” Courtney told Miller. “We had a babysitter. We were grateful to have an excuse for a date night.”

Miller, 42, for his part, is tired of keeping the big secret. He’s only been able to tell his wife, pastry chef Kristine Miller, how he fared on the show, or even what ingredients he used in the dishes he prepared.

The only other people close to Miller who know the result are the sous chefs he was able to bring to Los Angeles for the taping, Itaru Nagano, L’Etoile’s chef de cuisine, and Desiree Nudd, formerly of Estrellón.

It was Miller’s first time ever in a food competition and the James Beard Award-winning chef’s been cooking for almost 35 years. He said his grandparents had him in the kitchen from age 5 or 6.

The episode featuring Miller is titled “Battle Bobby Flay All Day,” and the Food Network is billing it as two “Midwestern master chefs” facing off “using one of the most versatile vegetables around.”

After Miller and competitor Tomaska square off using the secret ingredient, the winner of the showdown faces Iron Chef Flay.

“Bobby Flay is beatable,” said Joe Guastella, the die-hard “Iron Chef” watcher. “He’s been beaten before.”

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Wisconsin State Journal food writer Samara Kalk Derby brings you the latest news on the Madison area's eclectic restaurant scene.