Jeff Miller is not the forestry professional he expected to become while studying at the University of Iowa. A passion for food pulled him away from his textbooks. "There was definitely a calling to the stove," he says. "Instead of going to class and doing my homework, I was cooking and in the bookstores reading about food."
Today, he owns Luella's Bar-B-Que with his wife, Ashley Miller, where he serves a range of styles. He discovered many of them while roaming the country with his kitchen comrades who worked with him at big-city restaurants. "We were cooking high end food all day long, but we'd get days off and just go driving around the country looking for barbecue," Miller says. "That's when I got a taste for real Southern barbecue and Carolina barbecue at that."
His explorations resulted in a menu that pulls from many regional styles, inspired by eastern Carolina, Texas and Memphis. "The food is updated for today's audience," Miller says. "Asheville has attracted people from all different areas, so my barbecue reflects that."
He loves the down-home, flavorful food for its universal appeal. "It transcends classes," he says. "You could have barbecue at the governor's mansion or in the park with your friends."
Does that mission sound thoughtful for a casual restaurant? Don't be surprised to find that depth of consideration all over town, Miller says. "There seems to be a fever pitch for the best way to do things, a higher standard, whether it's in hospitality or the quality of food," he explains. "The bar for dining experiences is constantly raising in Asheville, and I don't see an end to that."