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Chef Tory Miller (right) goes from charcuterie to cheeseburgers in a new Culver's ad. That's Craig Culver on the left.
Chef Tory Miller (right) goes from charcuterie to cheeseburgers in a new Culver's ad. That's Craig Culver on the left.

Top chef and Culver's make strange bedfellows

The saying is that politics makes strange bedfellows, but in Wisconsin it’s television advertising that is serving as the most dubious matchmaker at the moment.

Tory Miller – the executive chef at L’Etoile, a high-end restaurant in Madison – is part of a new commercial for Culver’s and its new Pepper Grinder Pub Burger.  You can see the television ad here.

I have no idea how much Miller got paid for this ad (the Capital Times article attached to the ad notes he didn't get much in terms of monetary payment other than a "location fee"), created by the Hiebing agency in Madison. But to bring these two together seems like it might take a small fortune.

Let’s consider these things.

On the menu at L’Etoile are things like charcuterie which includes duck rillettes, finocchiona, headcheese, coppa, cashew and shallot pate, house pickles, picholine olives, aioli, whole grain honey mustard and crostini. That costs $25.

Miller has also created a pan-seared rock fish with fingerling potatoes, grilled romaine lettuce, steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, underground chorizo broth and paprika aioli. That one costs $44.

Culver’s has among its "featured items" a pork tenderloin sandwich. This is inspired by an "Iowa Farmland specialty and it uses premium center-cut pork loin, hand breaded with seasoned cracker crumbs and fried golden brown on a lightly buttered, toasted bun. Dressed any way you like – try it with pickles, ketchup, mustard and tangy red onions." Cost is $4.79.

Culver’s, famous for its butter burger, isn’t just about meat, though. It also features a shrimp basket, which comes with some shrimp and French fries. The cost for a six-piece is $7.99.

Here are the ingredients: "Shrimp,Bleached Wheat Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Dextrin, Dried Egg Whites, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Yellow Corn Flour, Dried Yeast, Dried Whey, Spice, Corn Starch, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Maltodextrin, Xanthan Gum, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Dosium aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate), Guar Gum, Fish Extract, Natural Flavors, Chicken Stock, Shrimp Powder, Autloyzed Yeast Extract, Sodium Alginate, Butter (Cream, Salt), Soy Flour, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate, Nonfat Dry Milk, and Tocopherols (To Help Protect Flavor), Sodium Tripolyphosphate (Moisture Retention), Sodium Bisulfite (As a Preservative)."

On its website, L’Etoile says "it promotes health and wellness by offering menus made from natural and wholesome ingredients."

The new Culver’s burger that Miller is touting has 911 calories, 59 grams of fat, 1,136 milligrams of sodium (salt) and 44 carbohydrates. Culver’s recommends pairing its new burger with cheese curds, which would add another 515 calories and 1,230 mg of sodium.

Miller has won the James Beard Award as the best chef in the Midwest. The team at L’Etoile includes a maitre ‘d, a wine and beverage manager, a pastry chef and not one, but two sous chefs.

At Culver’s, it's often kids who run the grill, scoop custard or make sundaes, run the deep fryer and run your bag out to you when your order is too complicated to get right away and you have to park in that designated area.

L’Etoile is often praised for its extensive and expensive wine list. Culver’s gets praise for its root beer.

I was going to spend some time trying to get somebody to tell me how much Miller got for doing this. But this is not my first rodeo. Nobody is going to tell me so I am not even going to try, and I’m left to my own devices here.

I don’t know how much he got, but I hope it's enough to get him to move to Milwaukee, open a new restaurant and decide to help build a new arena Downtown for the Bucks. We could name it after him. The Chef Miller Arena.


InTheView | May 9, 2014 at 8:29 a.m. (report)

It's horrifying to see him destroy good meat by crushing it under a weight while cooking it. All the flavor of that fresh patty spews out onto the fryer and into the grease trap... It's insulting to call Culver's a good burger.

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