Chef Jaime Briones and Ray Miller from Loft 180

The Main Ingredient w/ Kevin Burgin Welcomes Chef Jamie Briones and Ray Miller from Loft 180 WInnipeg's newest Ultra Lounge located in the Mcphillips Street Casino. A new twist on games and food. 

 

 

 

kevin burgin  
Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for tuning into The Main Ingredient. The first episode of 2019. I am Kevin Burgin. Last week I went down to make McPhilips Street Station and went to their new ultra lounge called Loft 180 which of course has excellent food. So in the studio right now I have chef Jamie Briones and Manager of Culinary Operations, Ray Miller to talk about it. How we doing today guys?

 

Ray & Jaime  
Great. Fantastic. super happy to be here.

 

kevin burgin  
Thanks for having us the other night. It was really good. Enjoyed the food. Okay, so Ray, I'm going to start with you. Loft 180 located at 484 McPhillips Street. 

 

Ray Miller  
That's correct. Yeah, 

 

kevin burgin  
At McPhillips Street Station Casino. So what is it and why was it created? 

 

Ray Miller  
It is an ultra lounge concept. It's created to create a different environment for gaming and for eating. We want to do a 180 on what we're doing on the downstairs level. And I think we've accomplished this with very exciting games and a amazing new menu 

 

kevin burgin  
I'm assuming the name part of the name came from like you said, it's always a 180 from the casino downstairs kind of a totally different change different direction.

 

Ray Miller  
Yeah, that's one area where it came from. So it's to do a 180 on what you would expect to find it a casino or what we had been doing previously up to this point. The other reason is, it's looking out on Route 180 which is it overlooks route 180 so it's a loft of 180. 

 

kevin burgin  
So yeah, this it's two-fold. Okay, so you are and were a chef for many years, but now you're the Manager of Operations right for for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. 

 

Ray Miller  
That's right. Manager. Culinary operations for the Casinos Winnipeg. 

 

kevin burgin  
So what made you make make the change? What attracted you to that position? 

 

Ray Miller  
You know, I've had many different positions while working at the casinos. This is just one of them. It just happened to be we wanted to focus our attention on the culinary side. So that position I decided to do

 

kevin burgin  
I understand. Chef Jamie Briones. You know I love the name? Briones. I wanna change my name? Kevin Briones. You've worked in many kitchens and done a lot of things so how was creating the menu and the food at loft 180 for you.

 

Jaime Briones  
It was definitely a challenge. First off, nailing down the concept and actually understanding what what we wanted to do and what we wanted to put forth. And then zeroing in on, you know, specific dishes and kind of flavor profiles and things that we wanted to showcase. I took a lot of inspiration from what I would consider a lounge that I would want to you know, go to to visit to have a couple drinks maybe have a bite of food so there's some what you might consider a classic lounge or a pub dish but with the new modern spin and that was kind of the the idea behind a lot of the dishes .

 

kevin burgin  
Had you physically been in that kind of lounge before for inspiration or were you or you kind of creating it from somewhere with that you know, pieces of places that you've been that you'd want to incorporate into into one location

 

Jaime Briones  
I don't think I've ever stepped foot in what you would consider an ultra lounge certainly not here in Winnipeg. I have visited you know lounges and those types of establishments and other cities it's got that you know, hip cool vibe interesting food great cocktails and there's definitely you know pieces of those trips that I've kind of influenced in this menu.

 

kevin burgin  
like I've this is gonna sound kind of funny I've never been in a in a casino before I'm not a gambler like I'm I'm terrible at games when I came there it kind of it was just a lot different than what I thought a casino was going to be is that the image you guys want to you want to throw out those people who are new to gaming are new to casinos

 

Ray Miller  
Absolutely we want you to see it as as an entertainment destination not it's not about the gambling it's about coming down on having a great time right I mean yeah we have some games or they're quite easy to start with I mean we have war casino war available it's it's just like the game you play at home.

 

kevin burgin  
usually like a little bit the cards flipped back

 

Ray Miller  
With the cards yeah. There's a dealer there and you play war. Yeah. And you make bets based on that.

 

kevin burgin  
That's kind of cool. That's the that's nice and simple I can handle that. 

 

Ray Miller  
a lot of the games are are even there, Cold play. So you can play with your friends, right? You can play roulette with your friends at a table a lot of the games are are more like an RPG style so you can it's more adventure game so it's a little bit more interesting than just slots

 

kevin burgin  
right? Yeah It seems like it's geared more towards inclusivity it like you know group play and the food is also the food is is is a lot of things to share

 

Jaime Briones  
absolutely everything was designed really with that in mind we want people to to share plates

 

kevin burgin  
I had trouble sharing the other night. just couldn't do it.

 

Jaime Briones  
That's that's that's what we're aiming for. Right and the menu is priced attractively. So if you're able to, you know, spend a couple bucks and try two or three things, if you're at a bigger group, you know, four or five things. It's just makes sense.

 

kevin burgin  
It's a place I would go even if like, even if I wasn't playing games. Like I would go there just to eat. You know what I mean? 

 

Ray Miller  
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, that's, that's your choice. 

 

kevin burgin  
James, what inspired you to start cooking in the first place?

 

Jaime Briones  
My mom is by far the best book I've ever known. Growing up eating her food I any was very, very simple. You know, very classic Chilean home food. That's what I grew up on. But it was always amazing to me just to watch her work cause my mom has been working all her life. And she would get home after you know, her nine hours in the factory and still put together an incredible meal for our family. And, and I love that there was something so incredible to me to see her put her love and soul into something to feed our souls. So that was by far a huge inspiration on me becoming a cook. Other than that. I've always had restaurant jobs. I mean, my first job out of high school was a restaurant and because it was fun, I love doing it. And the work was easy because I love doing it,

 

kevin burgin  
right. Yeah, it's less of a job when you actually like something

 

Jaime Briones  
Exactly. The people I've met throughout my career have, I have long like, lifelong friends through this profession. And I'm a musician as well. So like I've always kind of done the gigging part of my life and then the cooking part of my life. And they've always worked in tandem, so when I wasn't gigging I'd get I get a cooking job. And when I had a lot of gigs coming up, and I had to prepare on the musician side of me that I would, you know, let go of the kitchen job for a bit and I would just concentrate on playing. So as I got older, it's super difficult to be professional position in the city. So, you know, the gigs were few and far between. So cooking became more of the regular job, 

 

kevin burgin  
like a necessity

 

Jaime Briones  
Exactly by necessity, but also because it's something that I love doing right. It was, it was a pleasure

 

kevin burgin  
Right? When did you know that cooking was actually going to be a profession, like, that's how you were going to make your livelihood. Was it kind of a battle between both playing and...

 

Jaime Briones
yeah, always a battle and even to this day, I still gig so I still have the musician part of my life that that I really enjoy. I'd say was probably in my very early 20s when I was working at a music store and and got laid off and I just really took a serious look at what I was going to do with my life. I think I realized, you know, being a professional gigging musician was maybe not the life for me. So I thought of cooking something seriously signed up for the culinary course I read River College and was on the waitlist and then as soon as I got the call, I think it was four months later that that would kind of set the course for the rest of my life.

 

kevin burgin  
So, Ray, I'm asking you the same question. 

 

Ray Miller  
The reason why I started cooking was a lack of good food in my home. So in order to survive, I had to learn how to cook a very young age. 

 

kevin burgin  
Which is, you know, it's funny, it's funny that you're saying this because it's either it's literally one or the other. That is, that is literally the answers. I get on both sides either. My parents couldn't cook. There's no food in the house so I just had to learn how to cook myself, or I learned from my mom or my grandma or something along those lines. bizarre. It's crazy. 

 

Ray Miller  
Probably one of the first jobs I could get out of high school. It was a recession at the time was in a restaurant. So I just was so happy to have a job that I just worked hard and worked different roles in the restaurant and found myself in the kitchen. luckily enough, someone took it upon themselves to bring me to another kitchen just outside the city at Medicine Rock Cafe. You know, that kind of inspired me. The chef there was doing some amazing things even by today's standards. He was bringing in wild boar and syles of venison and Manitoba lamb Manitoba products very influenced on local products.

 

kevin burgin  
Right... before it was popular and cool to be local. 

 

Ray Miller  
Long before anybody was doing that. I mean, that's just inspired me my whole career. Since then, I fell in love with it. I could do it as many hours a day as I needed to, in as many days a week as I needed to. And it was the one love of my life for sure.

 

kevin burgin  
So what made you the you're more on the business and now, right. So how does it translate again, you got a position where it's kind of like, things are probably opportunities are popping up here and there. And you're, you're taking them. So which took you away from the kitchen? More and more probably, right.

 

Ray Miller  
Yeah, I mean, as you as you get older and you want to learn the different parts of the business. Right? And to me, it's more about the people now than anything else. And how can I help the people be successful? How can I get my my staff more trained? I mean, I have a over 100 people I'm looking after. So that's how can I ensure that they have a future in this industry, not just a job, but a career,

 

kevin burgin  
Speaking of which, obviously, when I was in your kitchen on Thursday night, the thing that I found is that there was not a lot of yelling back there. You got a lot of people a lot of things going on. I'm like, in your way, every five minutes. You guys are kicking on plates. You're very calm. Like I said, you're talking to people not barking out orders and stuff. So what advice would you give others to avoid panic in the kitchen?

 

Jaime Briones  
Well...I think panic is inevitable. It's bound to happen where you get, you know, unexpected rush, or you get countless sick calls. it's bound to happen. Being prepared for anything, I think is kind of the mantra, I mean, mise en place is more than just our ingredients that we used to put dishes together, right? It's a mindset. It has to do with the layout of things. It has to do with the way we conduct ourselves and how we carry ourselves. And that in turn, is how we communicate with each other. I've been in kitchens where the chef is yelling and screaming and throwing things across, you know, the room to get your attention. And I've actively chosen not to tap the kitchen in that manner. I think it's disrespectful somewhat to the trade to our craft. And it only goes so far to get what you actually need from someone.

 

kevin burgin  
Right? Hundred percent You're not going to get positive production out of somebody night after night by ragging on them.

 

Jaime Briones  
Absolutely. And it's more about, for me, at least building people's confidence and coaching and teaching. And if someone makes a mistake, which is bound to happen there's a way to take that mistake and learn from it and improve upon it and make sure that it doesn't happen again. I'm not going to say don't lose my temper. Obviously I do but there's much better ways to deal with it. Then raising your voice screaming yelling pounding on tables...that's what walk-ins are for. 

 

kevin burgin  
I'm just gonna go in this cooler for a minute. I'll be right back. ha ha 

 

Jaime Briones  
lol but that clears everything right? I just one big yell in the freezer. no one's around. Then you open the door and everything's good. We laugh because we know it's true.

 

kevin burgin  
totally true. That's hilarious. Okay, so what type of cuisine for both of you this question is for both of you. Is your favorite eat? And is it the same for you to cook

 

Jaime Briones  
Favorite to eat. anything my mom makes. So I guess I would zero it in specific specifically to chillean  food. 

 

kevin burgin  
is that strictly what she cooks or does she venture out?

 

Jaime Briones  
sure she always has. I remember growing up like my mom making stir fry and like Cantonese noodles and things along those lines. But what I to this day can't get enough of is her handmade bread or empanadas  her pigs feet with raw onions man I'm getting hungry. so I would think that by far as my favorite food to eat anything my mom makes

 

kevin burgin  
your favorite to cook now Jamie is what? I love all sorts of food. But tons of it is way too complicated for me to ever perfect myself and I want to eat it the way that I make it.

 

Jaime Briones  
I think I've done so much and kind of experimented with so many types of cuisine that I hate the word fusion because I've never really partook of it much in kitchens. But I think having respect for your ingredient, and then having the technique and the methodology behind a specific type of food allows you to play with ideas and concepts in a way that maybe we wouldn't think possible. In a roundabout way I guess I'm saying I'll look in my fridge and I'll find whatever I have in there, and I'll make something and that's, that's really what I enjoy. I enjoy the challenge of having great produce a great piece of meat whatever it is, and just making something delicious out of it. I've I love making pasta by hand. I love making bread by hand I love all kinds of meat butchery and fish production, love cooking with vegetables, but I don't think there's one specific style of food that that I would necessarily call my own. 

 

kevin burgin  
Ray your turn...

 

Ray Miller  
Its tough to follow that up. lol. I would say the food I'm most interested in or that I enjoy eating the most is typically food that is done well, that is that is handled well and handled with care. Often I'll go to Toronto, and my sister will take me on food tours of all the specific restaurants that that she has gone to. There's like one item that you got to try this item at this restaurant.

 

kevin burgin  
And that's the best way to tour a city. Instead of trying to discover yourself, find someone who lives there. And they basically take you to all the good spots just cut to the chase.

 

Ray Miller  
Yeah, she should actually have a website because some pretty amazing places. But yeah, I mean, I'll find something. I'll latch on to it. There is a, some lamb dumplings at a Chinese restaurant there and these ladies were just standing there making dumplings all day. And they're probably the best thing I've eaten in a long time. Something very simple. But it's done. Well, it's done with care. The recipe hasn't changed for 20 years. So yeah, that kind of stuff is what I'm into. It changes all the time when I when I'm really interested in eating,

 

kevin burgin  
but you're not restricting yourself to anything. So if it's good, it's good.

 

Ray Miller  
Yeah, not restricting. Again, like Jamie said, vegetables, I love vegetables. So I think more and more, especially at home. I'm doing more things with vegetables at home. Just feels better when you eat them and love the nutrients that you get from them. As for preparation of foods, it's usually whatever I meant to as well. So another thing I'm into right now is this is Einkorn wheat. So its the original wheat that has been around for 5000 years. It's kind of making a comeback. There's a movement to bring it back. I've been working with that at home lately. And I'm making some amazing breads out of this product and some sourdough pancakes and I'm excited about it. So if I'm excited about it, I'm going to work with it at home

 

kevin burgin  
So, um, it's a little secret. I I hate beets. I hate them. But I was the person that ate the most of those roasted beats. I was like, Yeah, okay, I'm gonna try this. And whatever I put in my mouth. I was like, that's actually quite quite good. I didn't want to tell anybody that I didn't like beets. But super good. So obviously the best beets I've ever tasted. My opinion has completely changed. So let's talk about some of the food we ate. So we ate the roasted beats, we ate Korean chicken wings. Those were like crazy good. Like, what's the reaction been to those?

 

Jaime Briones  
lol. Exactly the same reaction you had. 

 

kevin burgin  
Like, they're saucy. They're huge. In my mind. It's not a first date food. Unless, you know this person well and give the warning it's gonna be messy. There is no cool way to eat them. Because they're just like, super good. So like I said the reaction must be really get to those. We ate the mushroom ragu flatbread and the poutine. So how has the reaction been to all of those things. And again, that's just that's like 2% of your menu. 

 

Jaime Briones  
we've had great reaction to the menu in its entirety. things kind of, you know, day by day will on one day will sell, you know, a million flatbreads in the next we might have three or four. So every day is different. But overall, the reaction has been incredibly positive. We take a lot of care into the food that we're doing. And it definitely shows in the way the plates go out of the kitchen.

 

kevin burgin  
Your presentation is killer. I think the presentation sells the dish, like as it goes around the room. And you're looking at the presentation of some of those things. if I'm at a table it's catching my eye and I'm literally gonna ask the person who ordered it what is it.  I knew that might have a fork but the presentation is really good. is that a huge part of what you cooking wise?

 

Jaime Briones  
Absolutely. We with our eyes beforehand, before even tasting something. If something is visually appealing. It's already getting you know your mind. Ready. If something looks really good, you're gonna want to dig in, and you're going to want to enjoy it. And so so we take care in that as well. When we're when we're prepping the food and the menu we're actually really invested into what the dish looks like before it leaves the kitchen. 

 

kevin burgin  
Yeah, I'm really impressed. I was impressed by the taste the food I was impressed by the facility itself. I was impressed by the the presentation of the food, you know, and your philosophy as the kitchen is running. you guys run a nice, tight loose ship. Everybody that was working in the kitchen seemed very relaxed, very laid back committed, you know, I mean, like, everybody's drinking the Kool Aid. So everybody's kind of doing the same thing, right? Ray this question is for you. Why did you guys feel you needed to change things up food wise as far as loft 180 goes from the food that you guys ready serve in the lower level downstairs

 

Ray Miller  
in the lower level at Dixie currently we're very busy. We have lots of customers coming there. So we're already meeting those clients needs. It's about how do we attract new people to come check us out at the casino. It's slowly building up from our first opening day to today, it's just getting getting increasingly busier and busier. Which is great news, right? It means that people are talking. 

 

kevin burgin  
for sure. When did you guys open anyway?

 

Jaime Briones  
November 12? 

 

kevin burgin  
Wow. brand spanking new. so let's give people some basic information as to what your hours are. Can you make reservations like you guys that you guys are special events and stuff there right?

 

Ray Miller  
We do have lots of special events all the time going on. Yeah, absolutely.

 

kevin burgin  
Right. So if there's a special event going on to somebody to make reservation or can you just, it's just walk in.

 

Ray Miller  
We don't reservations. But you can absolutely walk in. Yeah. And you know, usually find a seat with no problems. Yeah, for sure. The room turns over fairly quickly. 

 

kevin burgin  
What are the hours?

 

Ray Miller  
11 till 2

 

kevin burgin  

everyday?

 

Ray Miller  
everyday 

 

kevin burgin  
So 11am to 2am? Yeah. Wow. Every single day, seven days a week. 

 

Ray Miller  
seven days a week. 

 

kevin burgin  
Thanks for coming out. You guys. 

 

Ray Miller  
Thanks a lot, Kevin. We appreciate it.

 

Jaime Briones  
My pleasure. 

 

 


 


 

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