Miles grew up hunting and fishing and learning the essentials of the south’s rich culinary traditions at an early age. He was born and raised in rural Alabama with the experience of his family growing and gathering their own food. This led him to understand the basic principles and importance of food in everyday life that would set the stage for his career as a chef. “Food for our family was raised out of necessity,” he explains. “We grew, foraged and hunted almost everything on our plate. I have vivid memories of family gatherings with a purpose such as canning, butchering and harvesting.” These are all things that McMath is handing down to his children so that they will have a clear understanding of where their food comes from and how to use it.
Leaving Alabama to attend school, McMath landed at Sullivan College in Louisville, KY. He began his professional career as chef tournant under Chef John Castro at Hasenour’s Restaurant in Louisville. After leaving Louisville, McMath was Chef de Cuisine under Chef Gerard Thabuis of Grand Casino Inc., Gulfport, MS. His success at Grand Casino led to his promotion within the Grand Casino Group to corporate research and development chef for all seven casinos owned by Grand Casino Inc. McMath spent just under three years fine tuning his craft in Tunica before opening his own restaurant, Timbeaux’s in Hernando, MS. Following Timbeaux’s, he opened two more successful restaurants.
During his six years as Chef/Owner of these restaurants, Miles gained extensive experience as a chef and business manager. Miles taped over 100 cooking segments for local television show Mid South Living, where he appeared weekly for four years. He is a nine time Gold Medal winner in National American Culinary Federation (ACF) competitions.
Today, Miles maintains a 60 raised bed garden at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, where he is Director of Culinary Operations. “St. Jude has given me the opportunity to incorporate all of my experiences into one for the benefit of the patients, families and employees at St. Jude,” he says. “We have a garden that produces everything from mushrooms, lettuce and asparagus, as well as compost from our kitchen and worm beds. We have a weekly Farmers Market that includes over 15 farmers and food artisans. We also have a traveling farmers market that stops by the kitchen twice a week to fill in areas that are lacking in our garden. Most of our vendors such as vegetable, pork, beef and honey are from areas that are within 100 miles of St. Jude. In the kitchen at the Kay Kafe, we produce over 2500 meals per day and all come from ingredients that we source tirelessly every day.”
There are over 16 different food concepts, a catering department, two satellite cafes and patient room service model that the culinary team at St. Jude operates daily. To McMath the biggest challenge of all is coming up with ways to influence children to eat when they don’t have an appetite and are far away from the comforts of home. He has created some unique ways of doing so, such as kids making and cooking their own pizzas, decorating their own cupcakes and numerous other hands on cooking activities. One of the big events of the year is when the Culinary Department builds a gingerbread house that is large enough to provide a dining table for two guests. He invites 25 local chefs and 100 patients to decorate gingerbread for the surrounding area of the house. “If you allow children to participate in making their own food, they get excited and are a lot more likely to take a few bites,” he explains. “It’s the same with growing food. If you give a child a head of cabbage they are probably not going to be real excited about eating it. However, let them plant, grow and harvest it, and you’ll soon have an excited, hungry and well nourished child.”