Matt Moran, chef, Brisbane Good Food & Wine Show
To be a chef you have to love it, you need to do it for passion, not for fame and glory ...
When it comes to big names in the Australian restaurant scene, Matt Moran is one of the industry’s most recognisable figures. The brains behind one of the country’s most successful restaurant empires is a culinary tour de force, with six top-tier restaurants, numerous cookbooks and countless television appearances to his name. Matt has remained a key figure in Australia’s food scene since opening his first restaurant at the age of 22, and has championed the use of seasonal, local produce in his cooking – pioneering the paddock-to-plate ethos now commonplace in eateries across the country. Matt will be coming to Brisbane this month for the Good Food & Wine Show, taking place from October 25–27 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. Before Matt takes the stage to cook some of his family favourites, we caught up to chat about his culinary ethos and some foodie trends worth keeping an eye on.
We’d love to start with your culinary mantra. What would you say are the core tenets of your personal cooking philosophy?
My core cooking philosophy has always been about cooking with incredible and fresh produce. You’re only as good a chef as the produce and tools that you work with. The most important part to any restaurant is the produce, therefore our farmers are invaluable when it comes to cooking. Fresh produce is always going to win over anything that has been frozen. It’s all about sustainability and seasonality as a chef.
You’ll be popping up to Brisbane to appear at the Good Food & Wine Show at the end of October. What sort of fun will you be getting up to at the show?
I love going to Brisbane and I have had venues up there for many years. Outside of cooking some of my family’s favourite dishes on stage at the Good Food & Wine Show, I’ll be checking out new restaurants while I’m there. I think Brisbane is a great city and has a great food culture, which is only getting better. Of course, I’ll catch up with great mates – I’ve got a lot of chef mates in Brisbane and it’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas.
Stepping into a professional kitchen for the first time can be an intense experience, and you personally entered it at the age of 15! What advice do you impart on novice chefs when they enter this environment?
At that sort of age it was great for me because I thrived on the discipline. To be a chef you have to love it, you need to do it for passion, not for fame and glory!
Are there any Australian chefs, restaurants or organisations you think are leading the way in terms of progressive and out-of-the-box approaches to cooking?
There are a lot of companies that look after their staff, and nurture them to get the most out of them. Staff is the hardest thing to get. I’ve still got staff at Aria that will greet you at the door that have been there for almost 20 years. It’s important to look after the staff you’ve got, as you’re only as good as your staff. Recently I took a 23-year-old staff member who had never left Brisbane with me to New York for some cooking demos. It’s all about extra training and spending quality time with your staff.
In addition to being a huge advocate for paddock-to-plate dining, you also own a farm! What trends and changes do you see impacting Australia’s produce farming industry, especially as it relates to sustainable practices?
I think more farmers won’t be set in their ways as it’s now all about sustainability, regenerative farming, understanding the land and looking after the soil. We must also look at ways of capturing the rain, rather than waiting for it to rain and the issue of over-stocking. Sustainability is the true factor, because the reality is if we don’t start looking after what we have got we won’t have it for much longer.
You’ve penned best-selling cookbooks, you’ve conceptualised award-winning TV shows and you’ve built a restaurant empire from scratch. What sort of professional goals are currently stoking your creative flame?
Next year, I’ll be turning up my creativity at the Good Food & Wine Show (spoiler alert – I’ll be at the show in 2020!) as well as focusing on sustainability. The show is great place to teach people about sustainability!
If you could request any person (living or dead) to cook a meal for you, who would you pick and why?
I’ve been very lucky in my life, and have had a lot of great people cook for me and I am grateful for those experiences. I am great mates with Gordon Ramsey, but I wish he’d cook me up breakfast just one time!
On the flip side, who would you love to cook for, and what kind of meal would you’d try to impress them with?
I’ve always wanted to have a dinner party with myself, Barack Obama and Prince Harry. At 10 o’clock Obama would go home and then me and Harry would hit the town!
Catch Matt Moran at the Good Food & Wine Show on October 25 and 26 as he cooks up family favourites at the Princess Cruises Theatre. For demonstration times and tickets, click here. To get the low-down on the rest of the foodie fun taking place, click here.