written by Andes Hruby photos by Kjersten Hellis 


Michael Miller works in the marketing department of Courthouse Fitness, a fitness club in Salem. Motivating participants and organizing events are a passionate family affair for Miller. Miller’s father has worked there since the early ’80s. Michael, with his brother, Drew, spent more time on the courts then they did at home. Miller found himself in endless games of pick-up basketball throughout his adolescence.

Miller ventured to Seattle for college. When he graduated in 2009, recessionary employers did not covet his degree in literature and creative writing. With few options, Miller’s psychological foundation eroded. He maintained a part-time job at Pikes Place Market as a well-educated connoisseur of Sotto Voce olive oil.

michael dallas miller, mind and body

“Sotto Voce was a life saver and gave me a new life flavor,” Miller said.  “We were all grappling with our futures, and our paychecks were padded with high quality bottles of olive oil.” Miller bartered olive oil for a variety of culinary adventures: fresh vegetables, cooking insights and quality foods.

“Cooking helped me out of a dark place,” he said. “I started anti-depressants that really slowed my metabolism, and weight snuck up on me. When I began a focus on cooking, I learned a lot about real food—produce and meats that were fresh and came without being pre-packaged. I also found creating in the kitchen to be a great tool to handle depression and anxiety.”

His brother, Drew, also influenced Miller by introducing him to trail running, which helped elevate his mood. Miller soon realized that returning to his roots in Salem wasn’t a failure of independence but a better routine for balancing life.