Celebrity chef Matt Moran, of flagship hatted restaurant ARIA, will be cooking up a storm using some of the best produce our region has to offer as part of Tastings on Hastings 2015, from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 November.
You’re a boy from the country who has carved out a career as a celebrity chef and established a host of internationally renowned restaurants. Where did you grow up, and how does your childhood influence you today?
I grew up on a dairy farm in Badgerys Creek, and then I lived in the outer west of Sydney and did my schooling. I left there when I was 15 and started my apprenticeship as a chef in Sydney’s North Shore area. I bought my first restaurant when I was 22. At the moment now, I am buying my ninth. Growing up in the country influenced me more than I thought at the time; I have a real love for produce and farming, and I actually still own a big farm. I get excited by produce; I love cooking and food and everything about it.
What led you to pursue a career as a chef?
I just literally fell in love with it as soon as I started cooking. I love every aspect of what I do. Obviously it has changed over the years and I don’t spend the same amount of hours in the kitchen any more, but I am overseeing all of my kitchens, and I have a real passion for it.
When and where did you open your first restaurant?
I launched my first restaurant – The Paddington Inn Bistro – in 1991, when I was 22 years old.
How many restaurants and businesses do you have in your stable now?
I am currently working on Barangaroo, which will be my ninth restaurant.
Being one of the most recognisable faces in the food industry, how do you balance your hectic schedule and still find time to experiment in the kitchen?
Having good people around me, good time management, and having good chefs who have been with me for years. I feel that you are only as good as the staff around you.
What is your favourite dish to cook? And is that also your favourite dish to eat?
It depends on the season, but for spring there is nothing better than some quality BBQ lamb chops. There are so many different foods that I enjoy and it’s hard to pick a favourite, as it varies often. When different ingredients are in season, it’s always when they are at their best and when I enjoy them most.
In your TV show, Paddock to Plate, you uncover the stories behind the food to get people thinking about how and where their food is grown, who’s growing it, and how sustainable it is. How important is it for you to use locally sourced, seasonal and fresh produce?
It’s really important, and I think everyone nowadays wants to know where food comes from and who is growing it and producing it. I have always had a strong love of food and local produce, and I feel as though we should look after our farmers a lot more than we actually do. Using great produce is not a fad – it is a reality and lifestyle; there is no question whatsoever.
You’re a big supporter of food rescue organisations OzHarvest and REAP. How do you limit the amount of food wasted in your restaurants, and what’s your best tip to help people reduce food waste at home?
Any offcuts we use for staff dinners and such; it doesn’t mean that it’s not fresh – the quality is there. We have very little waste in any of our restaurants; I just think it’s very important, because there are people out there starving. I have a duty to the community not to waste food.
At home, recycling, compost and using your garden are the main things. Try to do secondary things with food also; if you cook a piece of fish and you have some left over, then use it to make fish cakes. Think about the different ways you can actually use a product.
What advice would you give anyone considering a career in the food industry?
Do it because you love it and you are passionate about it, not because you want to become famous.
You’ll be working with the team at Port Macquarie’s own hatted restaurant, The Stunned Mullet, to present two unique fine dining experiences showcasing some of the best produce from the Hastings. What local ingredients are you most looking forward to working with?
Wherever I go I always look for local produce and try to use it in the best way I possibly can. There won’t be any change when I come to Port Macquarie. I will be looking to find some great ingredients to cook with. I am really looking forward to working with the guys from The Stunned Mullet, who have earned a name for themselves, and even I could learn something from them.
You’re also hosting a cooking demonstration at the Glasshouse. Have you got any dishes in mind for the demo, or will you wait to be inspired by the local produce you discover when you arrive?
I will have a look around and go on what we can find and what is in season. I can’t wait to come to the event – it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing Tastings on Hastings get bigger and bigger each year.
Thanks Matt. We look forward to welcoming you to Tastings on Hastings 2015.
See Matt Moran at the following dates and venues.
The Stunned Mullet Celebrity Chef Dinner with Matt Moran
Friday 6th November, Saturday 7th November. Cooking demonstration with Matt Moran Saturday 7th November, at the Glasshouse.