What started as a summer-long experiment four years ago has become the most anticipated restaurant opening along the Delaware River this spring.
As evidence of that anticipation, Graham Miller, the inventive chef behind The Platform Cookhouse, started teasing some of the opening-night menu on the restaurant’s Facebook page in March—and opening night isn’t until May 17.
The Platform Cookhouse operates as a seasonal pop-up within The Bridge Café, the breakfast-and-lunch mainstay in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Miller’s parents, both chefs, own the café. They were convinced from an early age that he would turn out to be a great chef. But after growing up in the restaurant, Miller consciously avoided cooking through his early twenties.
A bit directionless, he reached a point when he needed to know, once and for all, if he could cook for a living. And, maybe even more importantly, did he want to cook for a living? So, in 2012, he moved to Napa Valley and enrolled in the CIA.
The answer to both questions was an emphatic yes. Miller returned to his parents’ kitchen in the summer of 2015. But rather than simply continue the good thing they had going, he launched Platform, which he quietly promoted among the café’s loyal following and on social media.
His menus were small but ambitious. And every two weeks, he scrapped them entirely and started fresh. Most were inspired by a region—Southeast Asia, Mexico, New England—but every dish was an original iteration, sometimes mildly so (a fairly pure lobster role), other times quite brazenly (the banh mi burrito).
“I make the food as I would want to eat it, really,” Miller has said. “I could make it the authentic way, the traditional way, and plate it up real fancy. I know how to do all that. I just have this mentality where I prefer a casual environment over an uptight, white-tablecloth environment. I’m a simple guy.”
That first summer, he was a 26-year-old chef fresh out of culinary school. There was no denying his ability. It was hard to say, though, if he was too creative for Frenchtown. But as the summer wore on, the 16 seats filled up faster. And by the end of the summer, Miller was validated.
He’s entering his fifth season a little older, a lot more confident, and percolating with ideas. Expect to eat something out of the box, like crispy frog legs glazed with tomato, toasted coriander, and lavender, fall in love with it, and then have your heart broken. Because the menus will change quickly. (Miller posts updates on Platform’s Instagram feed.)
You won’t hold it against him, though, because you’ll fall in love with something new the next time out. And gradually, your loyalty will shift from the menu to Miller, a chef who’s only just beginning to mine what’s already proven to be a brilliant imagination.
The Platform Cookhouse at The Bridge Café, 8 Bridge Street, Frenchtown. Open May 17 through October; Thursday through Saturday, 6 PM to 9 PM. BYOB.