Miles Borghgraef first got a taste of the restaurant business as a dishwasher at the former Mia Bella Bistro, now the site of Lake Geneva’s Sopra restaurant. Washing dishes gave him just enough of the food service industry’s flavor to get hooked. “I fell in love with restaurants,” the Lake Geneva native, says. “They made me feel at home.”
Since then, he has bounced from job to job, working his way up in the industry and always looking for the next best thing. He thinks he might have found it with Birch and Butcher on Milwaukee’s East Side.
Borghgraef, 33, the restaurant’s head chef and owner, aims to change the narrative on restaurant dining. With Birch and Butcher, he looks to create a comfortable, Thanksgiving dinner-like atmosphere where guests can pass five to seven dishes around the table with family and friends.
“The vision for it is to make the most delicious food I can and not try to overcomplicate anything,” he says.
That’s the foundation on which he and his wife, Rebecca Zwiefelhofer, have built their restaurant, which opened in November 2017.
About 75 to 80 percent of the menu is cooked on an open-fire hearth, making it only one of about a dozen restaurants in the U.S. to use one, according to Borghgraef. “Flavors in the wood hearth are really familiar to everyone, whether you’re barbecuing with family in your backyard or going camping,” he says.
A lot of Borghgraef’s success has come through trial and error, and although he never attended culinary school, he says, he received training from a number of chefs and business owners. “I want to continue to grow and get better and offer people and guests a unique dining experience, and hopefully combinations they’ve never tasted before,” he says.