For a professional chef, you’d imagine grocery shopping to be a monotonous task. But for Matt Moran, it provides an enchanting avenue for expression.
“What I love about cooking at home is I go to the fruit and veg shop or the butcher without a preconceived idea,” he says. “I just go in there and see what’s great, what’s available, what’s in-season. I think that’s the best way to shop – it’s fantastic!”
Born in country Tamworth, Matt Moran was immersed in farm life from the moment he was born.
“Because I’m a farmer, I know how tough they’ve done it,” he explains. “Farmers are the backbone of what we do and a lot of them struggle. That’s why I believe in farmers’ markets.”
But Matt’s passion for food didn’t strike until early adulthood.
“I think it was later in life when I started to cook and basically fell in love with [fresh produce],” Matt says. “Over the years, caring more about the environment and sustainability – that’s where the passion really came from.”
As a result of his upbringing, local produce is always at the forefront of Matt's mind.
“Markets are fantastic to go to; you know who’s growing it, that the quality is good and it just tastes goddamn better, I reckon.”
Matt Moran also brings up a point I had never considered – the romance of seasonal produce. Casting his mind back to times before cold storage, Matt reminds me of the natural, historical methods of farming.
“It makes sense really,” he says. “In the beginning and end of the season [produce is] more expensive and not great, but in the middle of the season it’s in abundance, great quality and at its cheapest, too.”
As can be expected, Matt’s strong beliefs regarding seasonality heavily influence his menus, and seasonal flavours are clearly evident in each and every dish.
“A few of my restaurants have market gardens next to them, and whatever we are growing in the gardens is what we’re using on the menu. The restaurants are pretty much banned from using things that are not in-season and buying from overseas,” he assures me.
As we settle into the new season, I had to ask Matt for his opinion on prime produce.
“Coming into autumn, mushrooms are always pretty good,” he says. “We’re still seeing some late-season plums, which I love. Figs are coming into season, which is fantastic, and fennel is starting up, which is great!”
But fruit and vegetables aren’t the only things flourishing this season. As an entrepreneur, Matt Moran is far exceeding even the highest expectations, growing his business one delicious venture at a time.
With award-winning establishments located all around Australia, it’s hard for Matt to play favourites, but it’s impossible to deny the allure of Brisbane’s own Riverbar & Kitchen. When asked if his initial vision entailed the after-work watering hole ambience of the venue, Matt simply laughed. “Well, I planned on it being busy.”
In the same vicinity on Eagle Street Pier, Aria Brisbane is in the midst of a revamp.
“We’re [giving it] a bit of a refresh,” he explains, without giving too much away. “You know, Aria has always been fantastic. It’s going to be exciting; the menu is going to change.”
As for what’s next for Matt, 2017 is set to be industrious as ever. “I’ve got a few new restaurants opening and my cookbook is coming out at the end of the year,” he says. “We’re about to make the third season of the Great Australian Bake Off and Paddock to Plate will come back out again in October – there’s always something happening.”