Every season, Edward Bolus creates a new menu from scratch for Mill’s Tavern. A Pennsylvania native, Bolus studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales and honed his skills in the Mill’s Tavern kitchen for several years before becoming executive chef. When he’s not crafting complex new dishes, he’s raising vegetables and competing in oyster-shucking competitions. As we inch toward autumn, Bolus is cultivating new ways to merge French technique with Providence’s diverse flavor palate – and he talked to Providence Monthly about his adventurous menu, tending a small garden, and his go-to Lebanese comfort food.
You came to Rhode Island to go to school. What made you decide to stay here after graduation?
I grew up just outside of Scranton and came to Providence to attend Johnson & Wales. Then I just stayed. Providence is the best of both worlds. It has most of the amenities of a big city with the quaintness and the peace and quiet of a rural area.
Mill’s Tavern changes out the menu seasonally. What can diners expect in the fall?
We change out our menu four times a year, and even the core items have a seasonal tweak. In the fall, rabbit will be on the menu. I love working with rabbit. It’s a unique animal, with a very neutral meat that works with a variety of different flavor profiles. I am thinking about doing a veal dish of some sort. A pork chop. Our grill is very popular – we have both wood and charcoal, no gas – so a lot of our core items come off the grill. For the winter, we always bring venison back, which our customers love. A lot of regulars always ask, “When’s the venison coming back?” Winter! Because of our New England spring, I got a late start to the garden, so heirloom tomatoes will be out later. So those will be on the fall menu.
You have a garden?
Yes! This is our fifth year. It’s not big enough for us to completely sustain the restaurant, but we do have a garden out back. We started out in pots, and it grew to a small plot. I grow heirloom tomatoes, a variety of different peppers, strawberries that are taking over. One of our regulars gave me a head of Israeli garlic, which I planted. It’s growing like crazy. Expect something with Israeli garlic in the fall as well.
How do you come up with new items on a seasonal basis?
It’s a challenge. I take a lot of input from my crew – we all come from diverse backgrounds and we all bring our heritage and the food that we grew up with to the table when we sit down to plan the menu.
Rhode Island has such diverse communities and foods to chose from that I am able to find inspiration all around me. I come across a new flavor and I’ll sit down with my staff and brainstorm how we can apply that flavor to a dish while implementing the classical French techniques that are the core of what Mill’s is known for.
What is your favorite dish to cook?
It’s is a family dish called Kibbeh Nayeh. Some cultures do it with just lamb, my family does it with lamb, shoulder, and beef top round. The meat is twice ground with a ton of mint, peppers, onions, cumin, and bulgur wheat. It’s served raw with olive oil and pita bread. I grew up eating that for breakfast. It’s the Lebanese version of sausage and eggs.
It’s midnight and you’re raiding the fridge, what are you having?
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