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Bismarck restaurateur Stephanie Miller competing in latest season of Top Chef

The Bismarck native, who is chef and owner of Butterhorn, and owner of Shelter Belt, matched her skills against 14 other highly skilled chefs for Season 19 of Top Chef.

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Stephanie Miller, pictured Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, at Butterhorn restaurant in downtown Bismarck. Miller, the chef and owner of Butterhorn and owner of Shelter Belt, also in Bismarck, competes in Season 19 of the Bravo channel's "Top Chef."
The Forum: Kyle Martin
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BISMARCK - A Bismarck restaurateur is one of the 15 contestants being featured on Season 19 of “Top Chef.”

Stephanie Miller, chef and owner of Butterhorn and owner of the Shelter Belt in downtown Bismarck, will be seen matching her skills against 14 other highly skilled chefs when the popular culinary competition’s latest season begins airing 7 p.m. Central time on March 3.

The show was filmed in fall 2021 in “The Bayou City” of Houston, Texas.

The Bismarck native attended the University of North Dakota thinking she would become a physician, but in her fourth year of college, dropped out of the medical program and signed up for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in the Twin Cities.

According to her “Top Chef” biography, after graduating Miller then spent the next seven years cooking with distinguished James Beard-nominated chefs Lenny Russo and Doug Flicker. Following her work at the James Beard-nominated Minneapolis restaurant Piccolo, she became executive chef at Italian Eatery, also in Minneapolis. She later moved back to Bismarck.

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Miller opened the fine-dining restaurant Butterhorn in in fall 2017 with her husband, Shane Cornelius. The Bismarck residents later opened Shelter Belt in June 2021. Shelter Belt serves elevated pub food, craft beer and spirits, with the motto of: “So good it’s almost tacky!”

Miller talked with The Forum by phone Thursday, Feb. 17.

How did you get into Top Chef? Were you recruited?

They contacted me through social media and asked if I would be interested in applying. And, obviously yes, I would be very interested to apply.

I went through the process and thankfully and luckily, they picked me to be on Season 19.

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Chef Stephanie Miller is seen in this undated photo. Miller, a Bismarck restaurateur, competes in Season 19 of Bravo's popular culinary competition, "Top Chef."
Contributed: Bravo

What’s the process that they put you through?

It was a couple-hour-long kind of questionnaire. It was kind of getting to know me. What (do) I like to cook? Who are my culinary inspirations?

What was it like being on the show?

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It was a whirlwind of emotions. I mean, you’re really excited and you’re happy to be there right away. And then, the competition starts and it’s a lot of nerves and a lot of excitement. I mean, it’s kind of a whirlwind of every emotion I guess you could think of. You work so hard to become a chef and open up restaurants. And Top Chef is the competition to apply for and hopefully get on. That’s kind of the dream of a lot of chefs that I know. So, to be able to do that was just incredible.

Is this something you’d like doing again? Do you like being on TV?

As a chef, we’re always in the back of (the) house. We’re kind of behind the scenes. We don’t really get to experience the busy, loud restaurant very often. That’s not where we work. So, to kind of be in the spotlight a little bit, to see how an amazing show like Top Chef runs, it was incredible. If I ever got the opportunity to do it again, I would absolutely love to, yes.

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Fine-dining restaurant Butterhorn, 210 E. Main Ave., Bismarck, is owned by Chef Stephanie Miller and her husband, Shane Cornelius. Miller also owns Shelter Belt in Bismarck. Miller competes in Season 19 of the Bravo competition "Top Chef."
The Forum: Kyle Martin

Did you enjoy the idea of testing your skills against others?

There’s something that is very special about competing with people that are at the highest level of the profession that you’re at. It’s very scary to do so, but I think in order to get better in any profession, not just the culinary world, you need to push yourself and strive to be better. That’s a reason why I wanted to be on that show, or be at the competiton. I know that they were only going to pick what they thought were the best chefs in the country for that season, and if I were to go on a show, a cooking competition … if I were to compete, I want it to be with the best.

What would you call your specialty cuisine?

I really love French and Italian cuisine. I went to school at Le Cordon Bleu, which is obviously a French culinary institute. And then my second executive chef job was at an Italian restaurant, (where) we did all of our pastas from scratch - different shapes, very seasonal, very fresh. I really fell in love with both of those cuisines early in my career and continued on. Obviously, with the North Dakota heritage, wanting to incorporate that, as well, into my food.

Anything else important about the experience that you’d care to share?

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I think a really important factor in the show is that I was the first contestant in North Dakota to compete.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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