After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, McMillan worked as saucier at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, sous chef at The West Street Grill in Litchfield, CT, and interned at Trois Jean Bistro in New York City.
For the past eight years, McMillan was the Executive Chef and Owner of Opus 39, a highly acclaimed fine dining restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida, which won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in each of the past five years. Simultaneously, he also managed a retail wine cellar, owned and served as Executive Chef of The Tasting Room, a tapas restaurant, owned a bakery and published a cookbook, True to Flavor; Opus 39's Progression of Tastes in Five Courses.
"I was working 100 hours a week and hardly saw my wife and kids," McMillan says. "I had to realign my priorities." Napa Valley was one of his favorite places in the world, which he visited with his wife annually, so they moved to the valley without work lined up. "This is an area of the country that really appreciates fine food and wine so it just feels like home," he says. Back in Florida, if he wanted to order a whole pig, for example, it was an ordeal. "Here, they ask you what kind of pig you want."
Being a chef at a winery fits into the new family lifestyle McMillan has been dreaming of and offers other benefits. "Working at Signorello Estate gives me the wonderful freedom to be creative every day -- and allows that to be my only concern, unlike when I was an owner of a restaurant," he says. "And Signorello wines are very food-friendly, so I can use a myriad of local ingredients to create fresh dishes to pair with them."