Chef Tory Miller with founder and former owner Chef Odessa Piper
L’Etoile has served local and seasonal offerings since it first opened its doors in 1976. Former owner Odessa Piper, a pioneer of the sustainable food movement, prided herself in the cultivation of strong farm-to-restaurant relationships. Her support of Madison area farms and artisan producers helped grow what is now the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the nation. Through the years, L’Etoile has become known as a “shining star” in the Midwest for its consistency in quality and service.
In 2005, Odessa sold L'Etoile to her Chef de cuisine Tory Miller and his sister, Traci Miller. They have not only kept L’Etoile’s traditions alive but are especially committed to supporting the newest generation of farmers. They encourage young farmers to explore heirloom varieties, heritage breed animals, and the production of new artisan products while also working to preserve Wisconsin’s fertile terroir. Under the Millers, L’Etoile expanded their first-floor bakery and opened Café Soleil, a casual lunch spot offering a variety of made-from-scratch soups, salads, sandwiches, and sweets. In the five short years of ownership, L’Etoile, under Chef Tory, continues to win high praise both locally and nationally for its excellence in food and service. Recent recognitions include Gourmet Magazine’s “America’s Top 50 Restaurants”, Saveur’s “Top 100” and the title of Madison Magazine’s “2010 Chef of the Year”.
In June of 2007, co-owner Dianne Christensen joined the team and they began dreaming up a new space for L’Etoile and the addition of a gastropub they’d call Graze. As is true with all their other endeavors, their motivation stemmed from a desire to increase their support to local farmers and offer food that uses great ingredients to a larger audience.
At L’Etoile, we consider ourselves part of a larger community. Over 200 local vendors provide us with our meat, vegetables, fruits, and dairy. By buying directly from our producers, either at farmers’ market or at our back door, we establish face-to-face relationships upon which friendships and a spirit of collaboration are built.
As leaders in the local food movement, we feel it’s important to reach out to the youth in our community. With the rise in childhood obesity and diabetes, we believe that children should have access to better food in their schools and learn about the importance of eating healthy.
We believe supporting our local farmers and artisan producers has a direct impact on our community: it strengthens local economies; it encourages variety and enriches our food traditions; it promotes health and wellness by offering menus made from natural and wholesome ingredients.
We also believe that we can play a role in educating others. At L’Etoile, our entire staff goes on fieldtrips throughout the year to visit the farms where our food comes from. We also teach students at Sherman Middle School about cooking with healthy options (CHOW program) and help to support their large on-site garden through a community partnership
with REAP Farm-to-School.