Travis Miller, co-owner of Serial Grillers (Jackie Tran)
Serial Grillers co-owner Travis Miller was never a chef, but he learned his way around the kitchen via various restaurant positions. Miller worked as a bartender and server at Cafe Terra Cotta, pizza maker at Magpies Gourmet Pizza, sandwich maker at Cousins Subs, and a cashier at Eegee’s.
Miller and his brother William wanted to start a business and control their own work schedules. As a result, they launched the Serial Grillers food truck in 2012 cranking out cheesesteaks and burgers named after serial killers. The following summer, they opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Soon after, the duo opened a second location, which will soon expand to add 100 seats, a bar, and an outdoor patio. The brothers plan on opening a third location and are also plotting something else…
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective of food?
The first dish that changed my perspective of food would be this amazing pepperoni, onion and over-easy egg calzone I had while stationed in Italy [for the United States Air Force] at this restaurant called Vecchio’s. Sometimes it’s the simplest foods that really blow you away. Before that I thought Pizza Hut and Domino’s was where it was at, and now that I’m older I know better, obviously.
2) What are you eating these days?
These days I’m eating at whatever new restaurants pop up, enjoying the ever-growing Tucson food scene, and whatever I can find while traveling. My last good meal was at Pizzeria Bocce Patio Bar in Sedona where I had one of their wood-fired pizzas, which had goat cheese and mushrooms.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
My first dish I remember cooking was manicotti. Growing up I always thought it was a cooler way to eat lasagna. I make that dish still, here and there, and wish there were more places that offer it on the menu.
The Bone Collector Pizza at Serial Grillers (Credit: Jackie Tran)
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
We have been toying with the concept of a donut shop for a few years to carry on our family legacy. Our grandfather owned a couple Winchell’s Donut House shops here in Tucson in the late 1970s and early 1980s and seeing gourmet donuts popping up across the US has made a once boring and traditional food fun again.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
If I could choose anyone to share a meal with, I would have to say Marcus Lemonis. I’m such a business nerd at heart and would love to pick his brain. Also, maybe he would want to help us franchise our restaurant. A man can dream, right?
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
When I’m not in Tucson and searching for my new favorite place, I think that I enjoy San Diego’s food scene the best. They seem to always be trendy when it comes to reinventing old dishes and – in some ways – are similar to Tucson. They also have a strong influence on Mexican dishes but are able to procure fresh seafood at a reasonable price. I travel there as much as possible and always stop by Tacos El Gordo.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
My favorite guilty pleasure definitely has to be cheesecake. That is a dessert I have to try at almost any restaurant I visit: searching for the United States’ best cheesecake.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
Scordato’s Pizzeria, Stray Dogs, and Twisted Tandoor.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Well, at the risk of losing any street cred, I would have to say Taco Bell combo #10. But you have to substitute the hard tacos for soft tacos and add spicy ranch. If it’s my last meal, I gotta do it.