How do you own two high-profile restaurants and stay best friends? Ask this trio.
Cameron Whyte and Andrew Miller met on the tennis court as teens growing up in Naperville, Ill. They formed a fast rapport, and became coworkers at a local Italian joint.
Around the same time, each of the two friends crossed paths with future partner Sam Emery – a connection Emery and Miller didn’t figure out until they were college roommates. After Whyte moved here in 2011 for a banking job, he convinced marketing/sales guy Emery and Miller – a cooking school grad with an accounting degree – to follow. Whyte was planting the seeds for their first place, Merriment Social, which he pegged as “fun, vibrant, very informal – an indicator of who we are as people.” Third Coast Provisions, which opened in late 2016, is the partners’ polished homage to seafood. Despite the pressure-cooker nature of the industry, the restaurateurs – in their late 20s – say friendship comes first.
What was your very first cooking job?
Whyte: My uncle bought a warehouse and held parties there. He’d tasted some of the food Andrew had cooked at my house and hired us to cook for this 40- to 50-person party. A woman liked the food so much [it was the first time Miller made salmon rillettes – a dish now on Third Coast Provisions’ menu], she asked us to cater her wedding – for 150 people. We were 19, 20 years old.
You’re all from Chicagoland. What attracted you to Milwaukee?
Emery: A “culinary renaissance” is how one of our customers described what’s happening in Milwaukee. We’re excited to be part of that. Our friends ask, “Will you ever open a restaurant in Chicago?” Probably never. [In Chicago], there is just so much there that’s [too] similar.
Cameron, you had to really convince your partners to relocate here? How did you do that?
Whyte: I brought them to Casablanca on a Saturday afternoon [during the annual Brady Street Festival in August]. The beer fest was going on; it was a perfect day. Plenty to eat and drink. [The day] ended at Potawatomi Casino. We get there, everyone scatters. Later… we find Andrew at the roulette table, he’s stone sober, has a stack of 20 chips on ‘7,’ it hits and we all went crazy! We thought, ‘OK, Milwaukee
Are more restaurants part of the plan?
Miller: Definitely, but we’re really calculated in the projects we like to pursue. We like to find the space first and design around that and the food. We’re all chunky boys – we like to eat.
Listen to “This Bites” on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee (FM 88.9) Fridays at 9 a.m. with Ann Christenson and 88Nine’s Tarik Moody.