Restaurateur of the Year
CAVA CREATOR WORKED HIS WAY UP
No one is born with the knowledge. Sometimes people are born with the connections, benefitting from whom their parents are, but the knowledge can only come with experience, education and desire.
Danny Millan certainly has the desire, and he had the support of his parents. His father was a long-time Maitre d’ at the Sazerac Restaurant, coming to New Orleans from a similar stint at the Acapulco Princess Hotel, a true jewel of the Mexican hotel industry. Father pulled a few strings and got a job for his son at the “ain’t-dere-no-more” restaurant as a bus boy.
But Millan was thrilled to be near his dad and to work in an industry he had known all his young life. He loved it. When the now also long-gone Restaurant Henri, opened in the then-new Le Meridien hotel, he was honored to be on board as a food runner. Both jobs were over a period of five years, quite a long time for an ambitious young man starting a career.
Jimmy Moran saw the fire in this kid from Mexico City and made him a waiter, then manager, then captain at Moran’s Riverside in the French Market. Some customers, higher-ups at Freeport-McMoran thought the lad would do well in their world headquarters’ Executive Dining Room on Poydras Street, which gave rise to a still-fondly-remembered every Thursday gig of Millan preparing a Mexican Fiesta at noon.
And that led to Emeril Lagasse tapping Millan for assistance in opening his eponymous restaurant in Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Millan was General Manager, but New Orleans always was pulling at him, so he returned. First to Brennan’s on Royal Street as GM, then over to Restaurant August in the same position. He hit another goal when he was involved as an owner and GM at Le Foret on Camp Street, making true friends along the way.
The opportunity to own his own place outright came in 2012 with Cava on Harrison Avenue in Lakeview. “I’ve loved that name since I was a little boy. It’s what well-to-do Mexican people call their wine cellars, and I always wanted to have one of those.”
At Cava, there are no microwaves, walk-in coolers, or freezers. Millan serves only the freshest local ingredients. If it can’t be created and served fresh, it doesn’t go on the menu. Millan brought together two talented and incredible chefs who understand as he does what local ingredients and local preparations are all about.
Since it opened earlier this year, Cava has been packed, with multiple seatings every night. Part of the appeal is the food and the attention to detail by an owner who has assembled a truly professional team. Part of the appeal is the proximity of the affluent Lakeview neighborhood and the rebirth of Harrison Avenue.
Most of the appeal is because of a fine man who loves what he was born to do and was willing to pay his dues, learning the trade from the ground up.
Cava, 789 Harrison Ave., 304-9034