Photo credit: Glasser Images
Stephanie Miller comes from a family of Bismarck doctors and attended the University of North Dakota thinking she would also become a physician, but on December 27, 2017, she opened her own restaurant instead. She says, “I was in my fourth year of college when I realized I wanted to feed people rather than cure them.” Stephanie dropped out of the medical program, signed up for culinary school in Minneapolis, and moved to the Twin Cities. And then, Stephanie came back home and opened Butterhorn Restaurant where she is the chef, and her husband, Shane Cornelius, is her business partner and general manager.
What inspired you to step out and do your own thing? I think most chefs have the dream of opening their own restaurant … but I really wanted to show the people of Bismarck what I had learned. I wanted to come back and give my hometown a restaurant I was proud of and someday, hopefully, they would be too.
What have you sacrificed to do so? While going to culinary school full-time, I also had a full-time job in the kitchen working 50 hours a week. This led to a lot of important things sliding through the cracks, but the most important was family. I missed so many Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, and fish fries. Every time I called to say hello to my family during an event I missed, I cried after I hung up the phone.
What is one of the biggest obstacles in your work? I struggle everyday deciding when I need to go home and when I should let my staff handle the kitchen. I trust my team completely, but when it’s your own business, it’s hard to walk out the door and not think of how service is going.
Who have been your greatest supporters and/or mentors? My husband … he made me realize I needed to follow my dream of becoming a chef and he pushes me still at Butterhorn. Also, my parents supported me as I decided to drastically change my career and dive head first in a career path I knew little about.
What is one hobby you have and how does it contribute to your professional life? I love to paint. I try to push myself creatively and not just in the culinary world. Picking up a paint brush opens another part of the brain and I get ideas about recipes, menus, and plate presentation all the time when I’m working on a canvas.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world?” Travel as much as possible. I have met so many people who have started a career and never really got an opportunity to see the world. They ended up entering the “real world” before they ever got a chance to experience it.
What advice should they ignore? I would say just make sure you want the advice from the person giving it. Many people will give you advice and think they know best. Make sure you trust the people you take it from.