Jim Mills’ roots in the restaurant industry span more than 30 years. A partner in CHERRY PIE HOSPITALITY, Mills provides leadership, while helping increase overall restaurant performance and ensuring company standards are strictly maintained. He served as Vice President of Operations for F.E.E.D. TX restaurant group prior to Cherry Pie Hospitality, and previously spent close to 20 years with The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa, starting as an Executive Chef and ultimately moving to General Manager of the hotel, a position he held for nine years. Prior to that, he spent seven years as a chef with the Mansion on Turtle Creek and Hotel Crescent Court, both Rosewood Hotels in Dallas. Mills has served as Chairman of the Board for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau in addition to volunteering his time with The Houston Food Bank, the Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Houston and serving on the City of Houston’s Arts and Cultural Plan Community Advisory Committee.
How’d you learn to cook? I was fortunate as a young man to get jobs in French restaurants. My first mentor was Chef Jean LaFont, who at that time was Corporate Chef for Universal Restaurant Group in Dallas. Other mentors were Marc Balocco and Pierre Dousson. They taught me how to cook.
What’s the first recipe you ever mastered? Lobster Bisque.
What ingredient can you not live without in the kitchen and why? Butter, because it is essential to so many recipes.
What utensil can you not live without? My French knife.
Favorite affordable wine? Cuvee L’Exigence, Domaine Boisson, 2010.
Favorite place for dessert? Petite Sweets.
Is there a food you won’t eat? Chicken feet.
What is your comfort food? Gumbo. What would be your last meal? My mother’s chiles rellenos and my Grandma Delia’s mole.
What do you see as the next food trend? A return to simple, straightforward, meticulously prepared, yet approachable dishes.
At home, what do you keep on hand to serve drop-in guests? Great cheese, fruit, olives, well-stocked ingredients for Tiki cocktails.
What would people be surprised to find in your home refrigerator? Many bottles of hot sauce, a variety of mustards and pickles.
Who are your favorite chef, restaurant and dish? Armando Ramirez, Star Fish, Shrimp and Lobster Soup.
Is there a particular food that is underappreciated? And what would you do to help its reputation? Heirloom beans like Ayacote or Scarlet Runners, which we feature at Star Fish.
What would be your last meal? Frito Pie from State Fare and Lee’s Creamery Les Ba’get Vietnamese Coffee ice cream.