His beginnings were hardworking and honest to goodness with home cooked meals that were created from the family farm’s soul but lacked romance. Meat and 3 were the order of the day for most of the week. No meals had hints of reduction, clafoutis or parfait but then again whose did in the 1970’s?
Born in Tamworth then, a few years later the move to a large dairy farm in Badgery’s Creek, west of Sydney was how life started for Matt Moran. His upbringing had no impact on his eventual obsession with cooking per se but clearly his passion for grass-roots farming came from his field trudging heritage. The cooking part came years later when he began his apprenticeship at Roseville’s La Belle Helene on Sydney’s North Shore. It was here that it all started to make sense to him, his love affair with food began and the foundations of classic french cooking were bricked and mortared. Now co-owner & commander of 7 leading and admired culinary establishments – Aria Sydney, Aria Brisbane, Chiswick, North Bondi Fish, River Bar & Kitchen, Opera Bar & Aria Catering. His early and simplistic life on the farm must be a fond but distant memory.
Obviously, all these highly acclaimed business ventures wouldn’t be enough for the busiest man in Australia. He has also authored 3 successful books and in 2008 hosted The Chopping Block on Channel 9 showcasing him as more than just a chef and an astute businessman. This later led to joining the A team at MasterChef Australia in its 3rd series in 2011. Guest appearances on Junior MasterChef and My Restaurant Rules have all helped to secure his notoriety and squeezed in somehow has been his enrolment and prestigious seat as a member of the International Culinary Panel for Singapore Airlines.
Currently, he is on the road, getting gritty with sleeves rolled up and his gum boots crusty filming Paddock to Plate on Foxtel’s LifeStyle Channel. This relatively new venture has been nominated for the 12th Annual Astra Awards for Most Outstanding Lifestyle Program. With this wholesome project, he’s catapulted from one world to another and straight to the gutsy end of the dining experience, rubbing grubby shoulders with Australia’s passionate growers, proud producers, honour worthy farmers and picky artisans.
The stark contrast of Moran’s passions is as intriguing as his demeanor. On one hand he is a broad, ox of a farm bloke (he’s much bigger than I imagined and so solid, I nearly bounced off him when we posed for photos). He has the stature of a pro rugby player but with nicer ears and unchipped teeth. It’s clear to see that his heart is actually in the fields with his eyes on the harvest and yet through his vision & guidance his restaurants elegantly deliver some of the most exquisite and elegant dishes on the planet.
Our interview is held at his 2 Hatted, Award Winning Aria Restaurant in Sydney (Brisbane Aria enjoys the same accolade) and it really is as sophisticated as I had imagined. The attention to detail is flawless, the reception staff are elegant and warm with impeccable manners and the ambience is smooth, with a tinge of in trepidation and excitement for what’s ahead. This impressive flagship is run tight, but with an effortless ebb and flow.
From this castle of cuisine in the heart of what makes Sydney so bloody special, the views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House are stunning. It’s a vision that I’ll never grow tired of but from this vantage point it’s like watching a 3D film, you almost feel like you could lean out of the gigantic windows and touch it all with your fingertips.
Moran lives with his wife Sarah and their 2 children in a picturesque and coastal spot high on a hill in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. I know it very well because I used to live in the house next door many moons ago. Then, this cliff top plot accommodated a roomy but humble, badly painted semi with a rusty old trampoline out the back and a little girl called Lauren who liked to bounce dangerously high in all weathers and shout “Hey Zoe, do you want some home-made lemonade?” The sideways neighbourly view would be very different now since his extensive rebuild a few years ago and lovely Lauren and her home-made lemonade are long gone. I get the feeling that in many aspects of Moran’s life he will keep on building and building with no hint of downing tools or hanging up his work boots. Taking it easy is just not an option for this man and besides, he’s just not done yet.
Location Aria Restaurant Sydney
Photographer Nick May
10 Questions with Australia’s busiest man.
Favourite Dish as a Child
Worst restaurant experience of your life
A friend’s restaurant in Melbourne. It was so bad that I actually hid food in my napkin and took it to the toilet.
First restaurant experience as a child
We never ate out as a child, I don’t believe many young families did back then to be honest but my first experience later on, was eating steak at The Black Stump in Blacktown.
Favourite music to cook to.
Bowie, Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello (I sat next to him once in LA…nice bloke)
How was school?
I hated it and left at 15.
Work experience in the local RSL
What era would you like to eat in for a day?
The decadent 1930’s, oysters & truffles.
The Roux Brothers. The book ‘On Patisserie’ is my bible.
Most favourite city in the world?
What do you feel is your biggest achievement?
It hasn’t happened yet
Location Aria Restaurant Sydney
Photographer Nick May
Matt Moran actively supports Oz Harvest and The Variety Club, The Children’s Charity