Matthew ‘Matt’ Moran is one of Australia’s most famous restaurateurs and his stable of restaurants includes ARIA Sydney, ARIA Brisbane, Chiswick at the Gallery, Opera Bar and North Bondi Fish.
He is also one of the most famous faces on Aussie TV, most recently as one of the judges on the Great Australian Bake-Off! He has a lifelong obsession with food and here he talks to us about the Singapore food scene and why it’s such a hotbed of innovation and creativity.
What is your philosophy around food and cooking?
Fresh, seasonal produce has always been, and always will be, the foundation of my cooking. I’m a big believer in growing your own produce where it’s possible or buying from farmers markets. I love the romance of it, being able to pick my own produce, or talking to the farmer and hearing the background story about how it’s grown and harvested.
Regarding ingredients, flavours, textures and techniques, why do you think Singapore is one of the world’s most exciting food cities?
Singapore’s culture is right on point at the moment. It’s a small country with a big appetite and the food scene is absolutely thriving. It’s a street food mecca with incredible hawker markets and it has some of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten in. Flavours are borrowed from a huge mix of cultures from all over the world. I love that the food emulates certain cultures but has its own Singaporean twist.
Where have your culinary influences come from?
First and foremost, mother nature. I always look to the seasons to design menus or pick the best seasonal produce. Influences also come from the great chefs of the past, the Roux brothers, Escoffier and Bocuse and last but not least, travel! I’m lucky that I get to do a lot of it for my job. Every time I travel, I experience something new with food and it’s just so exciting and enriching.
Is food about following trends or is it about continually innovating and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible?
I never really follow certain trends. I’m aware of them and keep up to date with the industry and what they are but ultimately, I think it’s about cooking the food you love to eat and are passionate about. Having said that, I definitely push myself as a chef and restaurateur and I try to ensure that my staff do the same. I always try to improve as a person and improve my businesses. That’s the only way you succeed.
In your opinion, where can we find the very best food in Singapore? Where do you usually go to eat when in Singapore – fine dining and local/street food?
When I am in Singapore I always head to Club Street and East Coast. East Coast has such great Singapore crab.
Where are the hottest places and who are the hottest chefs in Singapore right now?
Tippling Club has got to be one of my favourites in Singapore. Ryan Clift has done a great job with it – it’s such a fun and exciting atmosphere with outstanding Asian cuisine. André Chiang also has one of the hottest places in Singapore. His fine-dining establishment always makes me want to come back for more.
Are there any ingredients you use in your cooking that the average amateur home chef would never have heard of, let alone know how to use?
No, not really. People are so engaged with food nowadays and it shows in their knowledge of produce and ingredients. My style of cooking is honest, simple but most importantly, delicious. While it has its place, it’s not always about tricked up or fancy produce for me. Sometimes simple is best.
On a rare day off from fine dining, do you have a guilty pleasure?
Chocolate is always my guilty pleasure! And a good old-fashioned Caramello Koala always hits the spot for me when I crave it.
Money no object, talk us through the restaurant you dream about when you close your eyes at night.
Honestly, without wanting to sound boastful I genuinely have the restaurants of my dreams! I am very lucky and grateful that when I stand in my restaurant ARIA (which is my first baby), I am in my fine-dining dream. Then when I want to escape and head to my kitchen garden dream and the style of food that’s closer to what I cook at home, I can go to Chiswick at Woollahra. I have 10 restaurant businesses now and while I’ve worked incredibly hard to get where I am, I feel so blessed and lucky to be here.
If time travel were possible, what message would you give to your 18 year-old self just starting his/her culinary journey?
Keep going the way you are going, follow your dreams and keep working hard. You’re on the right track.
Chefs are a breed unto themselves. Why do you think that is?
Chefs have passion and they love what they do. I say to many of my staff ‘love what you do and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ The kitchen environment is a challenging one and the type of people drawn to the industry really thrive off it. Why that is, I couldn’t tell you!
What are the elements that define you as a chef?
Passion, integrity and a strong work ethic.
From where do you find your creativity, inventiveness and innovation?
I travel a lot and new environments and cultures inspire me. I find a lot of creativity in what I see around me and when I’m eating out. The more places I dine in, the more I learn. It’s also just from an instinct you develop over the years and being truly passionate and in love with what I do for a living.
Matt tweets from @chefmattmoran and his website is at mattmoran.com.au