It’s no secret that Providence houses a prestigious collection of fine-dining destinations. The ones that truly stick out are headed by chefs that take chances and follow their inner passions with each dish. Take, for instance, Mill’s Tavern and the surprising menu elements they bring to the table, all thanks to their Executive Chef Edward Bolus. We stopped by and got the inside scoop on the dishes Chef Ed feels most proud of, and how his artistic freedom at Mill’s is the real secret ingredient in the kitchen.
Where did your passion for cooking begin?
I attribute where I am today from what I took away from my parents’ cooking when I was a child. One of my strongest memories is waking up in the middle of the night and smelling marinara sauce on the stove. I was on the other end of the house and thinking, “Oh my God, that smells amazing.” My father’s side is 100% Lebanese and my mother’s predominantly German, so I was introduced to a lot of different foods at a young age (like eating raw lamb at three years old). It definitely gave me a different appreciation and perspective than most kids who grew up on Hamburger Helper and Chef Boyardee.
You started out shucking oysters for Mill’s Tavern and now you’re the executive chef. What made you stay with the restaurant for nearly a decade?
One of things that I love about Mill’s Tavern, and possibly the reason why I’ve stayed so long, is that nobody tells me what I can or can’t do in the kitchen. I get to teach myself and try new things all the time. We’ve done bison, ostrich, venison – basically whatever we want to do, we take a stab at it. My bosses never question what I do. So long as the restaurant does well, I get to play with anything I want. It’s one of the most amazing aspects of the job. I get to take chances and push the envelope with my dishes.
What station on the kitchen line is your “sweet spot”?
I love grilling. We have an open wood and charcoal grill in the kitchen. The flavor our steaks get on that open fire is just incredible. We’ve got a rotisserie on there, too. I just had a single spit manufactured so I can roast a whole suckling pig. That’s the game plan for the summer. We do a major change to the menu each season, and then host a wine dinner to showcase those changes. I’ll engineer it to be themed on the seasonal ingredients available. For summer we’re thinking about a luau theme or anything that will work around an entire rotisserie suckling pig.
What’s a stellar item on the menu that you would recommend?
The dish I’m most pleased with right now is the Skate, which is stingray, for those who don’t know. It’s made with traditional pan sauce, but with a twist. We dust the skate in rice flour to keep it gluten-free. Then a quick pan sear on the skate with a little garlic, shallots, fennel, caramelized onion and then we deglaze it with Sambuca. A little cream, finished with butter and heirloom cherry tomatoes. That all goes over Vermicelli rice noodles. So there’s a little Asian influence and French style.
Can you talk about a dish you feel personally connected to.
The Rabbit Roulade is a dish that I’m particularly proud of. It’s evolved quite a bit from its original form. It’s a whole rabbit saddle, so you de-bone the entire rabbit, take the four legs and hind quarters and grind them to make a forcemeat, then pack that inside the saddle. [Then] put inlays of various ingredients, anything from bacon chorizo to edamame, sun dried tomatoes or olives. Since we break down all of our own duck in-house too, I take the tenderloins and in-lay them within the roulade. When you roll and slice it, you can see the tenderloins throughout each cut.
If you had the choice, what would be your last meal?
If I had to have my last meal it would be Kibbeh with fried eggs and flat bread. Palate-wise, it’s not something most people would consider a “favorite dish” but I’ve always loved it. It’s basically the Lebanese version of tartar – ground lamb and beef with a few moderate spices, like mint, pepper and onion. The meat my mother always had for this dish was unbelievably fresh, like just-after-the-butcher-cut-it kind of fresh. Hence the reason I was able to eat it raw as a kid.
101 North Main Street, Providence