Dunkin’ Brands Group promoted Jeff Miller from director of culinary innovation at Dunkin’ Donuts to executive chef in late June. Miller now leads a 22-person culinary team that develops menu items for more than 18,000 Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin’ Robbins restaurants worldwide. Globe correspondent Taryn Luna recently chatted with Miller about his career and love of food. Here’s what she found out:
1Despite an early exposure to doughnuts at his uncle’s shop, Dickie’s Donuts in his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., Miller wanted to be an aerospace engineer while growing up. A high school teacher recognized his interest in food and helped him land an internship at a fine dining restaurant, leading him to his current career path.
“I was a big math geek in high school,” he said. “That internship diverted me toward an area where I could be more creative.”
2He worked at Houston’s in Manhattan and a few other restaurants after graduating from Johnson and Wales University in Providence with a culinary arts degree. He joined Dunkin’ Brands 11 years ago in an entry-level supply chain job and worked his way up.
“I was definitely the low man on the totem pole for a while. I was the one getting coffee in the beginning.”
3Miller, who tastes doughnuts and fast-food sandwiches for a living, is a true foodie. Eastern Standard in Fenway is his favorite place to grab a drink. He cites the 20-course tasting menu at the swanky Japanese restaurant o ya, which costs $285 per person, as one of the best food experiences in Boston. His all-time favorite local restaurant? Deuxave in Back Bay.
“It’s phenomenal. They are incredibly consistent. They have one item called a French Kiss, a foie gras stuffed prune. It’s amazing.”
4Miller and his crew brainstorm about 400 ideas for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin’ Robbins products every year. The best recipes are perfected in the kitchen at Dunkin’ headquarters in Canton and are sent off to a food manufacturer. The manufacturer then develops a commercial product that can be cooked quickly and easily for millions of customers with a similar taste and appearance.
“The goal is to get as close as possible to that ideal recipe. It still has to bring out those taste attributes that you intended for the customer.”
5Not every recipe makes it to the menu. The bacon doughnut is one item Miller and his team have struggled to perfect. Among the variations they’ve tried is a maple-glazed doughnut topped with crumbled bacon. It was a miss.
“The bacon doughnut is something that we worked on for a while, but we haven’t been able to get it into the restaurants. I think our customers would respond well to it. We still have to find the right recipe and get everyone behind the idea.”
6Miller plays guitar and performed with his first band at age 23. Now he’s trying to put a band together to play shows again.
“I love getting up in front of people and sharing something that I’ve created. It’s just a great feeling to be on stage and have people enjoy what you’re playing. There’s nothing like it.”
7He may get in trouble for admitting it, but Miller does not dunk his doughnuts.
“Unless it’s a peanut doughnut. Where I grew up in Buffalo, everyone has a peanut doughnut. It’s a nostalgic thing and the one doughnut that I think goes really well with coffee.Taryn Luna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TarynLuna.