Executive chef of Sydney's Aria Restaurant and judge of Australia's Master Chef Matt Moran will be the star guest at Taste of Auckland in November. He chats to Viva.
You grew up on a farm in NSW, how did this influence your approach to food?
My background is very meat-oriented, I grew up with meat and three veg. It probably influences me more now as we produce a lot of our own meat. I have a lamb company - Moran Family Lamb, which can be delivered to your door. I only source the best and I am also heavily driven by what's in season - because it makes sense.
You opened your first restaurant in 1991, The Paddington Inn. What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Where to start... I had a passion for food and my business partner Peter was amazing at running front of house but we were naive in business and just gave it a go, we didn't know what we were doing, nearly went broke about four times and quickly learned we had to get to know how to run a business. We also learned that success is not only about the food, it is about ambience, acoustics, location, design, service - everything.
In 1995 you won the award from the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. What did this mean for you/your business?
It was a big thing - we had worked really hard and we were recognised for it; any award or accolade is nice as we work incredibly hard. But just being able to attract bums on seats every night is what we are striving for.
Aria has won many awards. What do you think it is that makes this restaurant (and the one in Brisbane) so unique?
I think we have what I described above - the full package - Aria is on the water, we have a great location and amazing food.
Describe your style of cooking today?
Very produce-driven, modern with classical influences and techniques.
What is your favourite dish on the menu at the moment?
I love the pork belly - all of our customers rave about it - but it is very hard to pick one thing out as I love everything.
What are your recent favourite foodie finds?
There are a few - chillis out of Noosa, which are a bit different, Australian fresh truffles, morels from Victoria and oysters from South Australia.
You are now a bit of media star. How has the Australian food scene changed during your time within it?
The food scene has changed incredibly - there is now a whole foodie culture, a generation of kids obsessed by food, and good food, and they are interested in it and how to create it. MasterChef in particular has been a phenomenon - 5.7 million people tuned in to watch the final.
How does travelling affect your approach to food?
A lot - I am very lucky to be able to travel a lot and see so much and experience so much new stuff - every time I go away I am inspired by something new.
How would your staff describe you?
Firm but fair.
What excites you about cooking still, after all these years?
Food for me is always exciting, every day I learn something. Also, it is so exciting to see the new talent coming up - in this industry people do it because they love it and there is so much passion out there.
When you're not working, what do you do?
I don't get much time off so when I do I want to spend it with my two children.
The best thing about my life right now is?
I know I have a great life, I get to eat fabulous food, travel, I am surrounded by supportive people, life is exciting but it is extremely busy, I have hardly any time off but that comes with the territory.
Tell us about coming to NZ to be part of the Taste Festival?
I am really excited about coming to Auckland, I haven't been to New Zealand for a few years and am excited to see what new products you have, what you are doing with food and meet new talent.
* The Taste of Auckland Festival is four days where top chefs and restaurants come together in Victoria Park to create special degustation menus, wine tastings, master classes and more. 18-21 November. Early bird tickets $20.
To find out more, go to tasteofauckland.co.nz.