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Chef Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller, Chef and Partner of two of the East Village’s hottest sushi spots: Rosella and Bar Miller.

There is no shortage of revelatory omakase in New York City. To stand out, it helps to have a hook (pun fully intended). Jeff Miller found his hook when he took over ordering seafood at Uchi, a legendary sushi spot in Austin, TX. At first, he just ordered whatever had been ordered before. “But I started comparing the lists from suppliers, and I was surprised by all the domestic options,” he says. “It was like a light bulb went off. ‘Oh, this doesn’t have to come all the way from Japan.’” Today, Rosella — his Michelin-starred restaurant in New York’s East Village — is lauded for its sustainable approach to sushi, which relies on local fish, including South Carolina shrimp and mackerel from Virginia.


His journey to becoming a sushi chef began growing up in Northern California, in a small town in the Sierra foothills with the very un-sushi-like name of Grass Valley. During a high school exchange program, Miller headed across the Pacific to Canberra, Australia. He credits his host father there with sparking his interest in cooking — and when he landed in Gainesville, Florida for college, he picked up a job at a sushi restaurant called Dragonfly, a local favorite.

His tenure at Dragonfly cemented his obsession. By 2017, he was in New York at (the now closed) Mayanoki, where he met his future business partner, TJ Provenzano. In February 2020, they signed the lease on a new place, opening Rosella in October; their second spot, Bar Miller, recently opened in the old Mayanoki space. The two restaurants are less than four blocks apart in New York’s East Village, on the vibrant streets ringing Tompkins Square Park.

New York spoils chefs. If I were to open a sushi restaurant elsewhere, I'd likely be feeding people with an idea of what sushi is, and who expect to have a meal that maps onto that. It’s different here. People are curious.

All of Miller’s exceptional dishes  — like the ceviche and pickled mussels nigiri — are the result of tireless hard work and commitment to craft. Those principles are the backbones of his days, too, as we found out when we stopped by Rosella recently to get the low-down on a lauded omakase chef’s schedule.


9:00AM - 2:00PM

“I love getting here a couple hours before anyone else and being in this space in silence, with coffee and a podcast in the background, something like [MIT professor and computer scientist] Lex Fridman’s show.”

“This work is hard on my body. Those first few hours of the day, when I’m tight, I can feel like there’s a weight on me. The best solution I’ve found is action; setting up in the restaurant loosens my body, gets me out of my head and gets me ready for the day.”

“In the mornings, I look over the menus. Check we’ve received all our orders. Look at the big-picture stuff — the decision to try locally sourced fish was a process of trial and error. Not everything I tried locally was great as a sushi fish, but some were exceptional. A lot of what worked or not often came down to season: wild-caught fish changes in the summer and winter.”


2:00PM - 5:00PM

Rosella's ceviche is made with coconut milk, chilies and citrus; the rest of the ingredients — fish, fruits, vegetables — rotate based weekly.

I was warned to avoid bluefish, but I ordered it anyway and was blown away by how rich and fatty it is.

"We use a lot of porgy, too; it’s related to madai, a prized variety of bream with a long tradition of being used in sushi. Here, porgy is like $2 or $3 a pound, which is nuts for fish.”

“In the afternoon, my day switches to ‘What do people need?’. A lot of it is training. Since our second restaurant, Bar Miller, opened last year, we have a lot more new faces, people with different levels of experience. So I spend my time teaching the team things like how to make sushi rice, how to properly slice an onion. I’m a slow learner, and I love when sharing what I know can help someone else master a thing faster than I did.”

“Right before opening, at 4:30, we have our pre-shift meeting at Rosella. We all get together to go over menu changes or anything noteworthy about who’s coming in — people we know personally, celebs [like recent visitors Scarlett Johansson, Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt], allergies to look out for, things like that.”


5:00PM - 11:00PM

“We open at 5 o’clock every night. I’m the middle man between the 3-man line in the kitchen and the servers; I stand at the cutting board in the center of the kitchen with my rail of tickets. There’s a conductor element to it…you’re always looking for what needs to get done. My job is to make everything run smoothly, and free everyone else from needing to do anything but focus on the task in front of them.”

“There’s good energy in this restaurant — there’s loud music, it’s small so it feels full fast…I love the vibe on busy nights. One obsession of mine, which I get to lean into with the playlist, is UK rap; I’m especially into The Streets, and Mike Skinner…he is to music what I aspire to be to sushi.”

“I get lost in the middle of service. It’s my favorite part of the whole thing — it’s such a joyful process. As someone who can spend far too much time in my own head, I love the pure action of it.”

“The last half hour of the night I go downstairs and take stock of what’s left and what we need to prep for the next day. It’s a nice unwinding period before I head out. I used to keep more normal restaurant hours and go to sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning…now I crash as soon as I get home.”

I’ll always be addicted to sushi. I worried I’d get sick of it, but it’s been 17 years and counting, and I love it more than I ever have.



“I’m very attracted to well-made clothes that give an overall sense of ‘looking good,’ but don’t necessarily draw too much attention, or make you look at the clothes themselves.”


“Superiority Burger. It’s the essence of the East Village, quirky without trying too hard. It’s entirely its own thing…whatever a thing is, I want it to be itself and not an attempt to recreate something. I’m obsessed with the Collard Greens sandwich.”

What’s your tip for aspiring home sushi chefs?

““Get a good rice maker. Even if you’re not trying to make sushi, it makes making dinner so easy…throw rice and water in, and out comes perfect rice; just steam some broccoli and fish and you’re done. Zojirushi is the standard.”

What’s your favorite item in your closet?

“All the people I looked up to when I was in fourth grade wore hats. Like, there was no one cooler than Ken Griffey Jr.; the way he wore a hat was the essence of cool. I’ve been wearing them ever since. I have so many hats — 98% are New Era 59FIFTY’s — and the vast majority are Florida Gators hats.”

What makes a good omakase?

“I’m someone who values a good massage…and I think you can tell when the person doing it is going through the motions and not putting intention into their work. But when someone is, even if they’re not as skilled, those are the massages where you leave your body for a while. And in sushi — or in life, really — you can tell when someone is just checking things off of a list, and when they’re combining thought and action. That’s when a meal is best.”

Photographs by Clément Pascal

Interviewed by Kate Andersen