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Team

Chef Tory Miller

Executive Chef & Co-Proprietor

Chef Tory grew up working in his grandparents' diner in Racine, Wisconsin before moving to New York to attend the French Culinary Institute and work his way through some of the cities' finest kitchens, including Bill Telepan's JUdson Grill and Eleven Madison Park.

 

A true Wisconsinite at heart, he returned to Madison to begin working under his mentor, Odessa Piper, at L'Etoile. Here he found his true passion for local food through the Dane County Farmers' Market. After taking over L'Etoile in 2005 from Odessa, Tory opened his 2nd restaurant, Graze, in 2010, and his 3rd, Sujeo (now closed) in 2014, as a way to provide local-sourced cuisine to a larger audience in the Madisonian dining scene.

 

A 2012 recipient of the James Beard Award Best Chef: Midwest, Tory has strived to strengthen Madison's food system, local agriculture, and wider community throughout his career by supporting farmers and purchasing local Wisconsin products for all his restaurants, notably forming the Madison Area Chefs Network to unite Madison's local chefs for the first time. When he is not working in one of his restaurants, Tory is spending time with his three young boys, passing along his love of all things delicious.

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Dianne Christensen

Co-Proprietor

Dianne Christensen became a co-proprietor in June of 2007. With her long career in economic consulting, she has been instrumental in helping navigate the move of L’Etoile and the opening of Graze.

 

Passionate about food, she taught all her children to enhance their lives by cooking and eating wisely. As a key supporter of L’Etoile’s farm-to-school initiative (CHOW), she’s also helped make healthy eating a priority at Sherman Middle School. L’Etoile and Graze allow Dianne to bring her passion and business expertise together and further their philosophy of well-prepared, local, seasonal foods.​

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Michael Kwas

Wine Director

Michael joined L'Etoile in 1991 when he was hired as a dishwasher. He picked up a bartender's shift one day a week and became interested in wine, and in 1993 became L'Etoile's Wine Director. When folks ask Michael how he learned about wine, he responds, "by tasting purposefully, teaching, traveling, asking questions, and searching for beauty in the things we eat and drink."

 

Today, Michael continues his life-long study of wine as an active member of the wine team, while also teaching Middle and High School students. 

  

Favorite Picks: J.J. Pruüm Gold Cap Auslese from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr Vineyard in the Mosel, and any wine from the Grand Cru Musigny

Managers

Helene Palau-Tejeda

Helene's journey at Deja Food Group began when she was hired in 2018 as a floor manager. Her hard work has now earned her the title of Director of Operations, where she oversees all of Deja Food Groups operations.

 

Helene's ability to make all the restaurants run smoothly speaks to her collaborative and organized nature. She enjoys spending her free time with friends and family!

Director of Operations for Deja Food Group

Natalie Curlee

General Manager

From Georgia to Iowa, then North Carolina to Wisconsin. We're glad Madison was Natalie's last stop. Natalie started her career at L'Etoile 2 years ago as a Bartender. She now holds the title of L'Etoile's General Manager. 

Hard work is not new to Natalie as she has two degrees; a bachelor of fine arts and an associates of applied science in radiography. In her free time, Natalie is busy traveling and painting. 

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Kristine Miller

Head Pastry Chef

Kristine started at L’Etoile in 2009. She began as a pastry assistant, her first job in the culinary field. After the birth of her first son, she opened Dough Baby Bakery. Open just over a year in Downtown Madison, Dough Baby Bakery is Kristine's love letter to the doughnuts she grew up on.

 

Kristine returned to L'Etoile in 2019 as a baker, moving to head baker and then additionally Pastry Chef for the Deja Food Group the following year. The pastries Kristine creates truly elevate L'Etoile's wine and dine experience.

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Dylan Huntress

Sous Chef

Dylan has only been working at L’Etoile for a little over a year but has risen in rank quickly, and for good reason. Dylan loves to get creative and appreciates the freedom L'Etoile grants him to be innovative within the kitchen. 

 

 Dylan's artistic vision has inspired countless dishes. He especially loves to highlight all of the fresh produce that is provided by our farmers. We are excited to see what else Dylan creates.

Abby Hampton

Sous Chef

Abby’s dedication to L’Etoile started 5 years ago. She began as a Market Forager and now holds the title of Sous Chef. Abby’s ability to connect with our farmers has helped grow our bonds and strengthen our community.

 

Everyone Abby interacts with is left impressed by her personality and charm. Abby's energy brings joy to those around her. Her wit and skills are what make her so memorable.