Greg Moro knew he was destined to be a chef. He found a photograph of himself (at age 10) holding a cheeseburger and with the craziest smile on his face, just psyched about eating it. He played with matches as a youngster, lighting everything on fire. He collected pocket knives and swords. Then it dawned on him: food, fire and knives, three of his favorite things, every day. That's when Moro realized he wanted to go to culinary school.
The first time we spotted Moro, he was at the OC Mix for a Riviera event, representing French 75. The last time we met, he had just celebrated his birthday and was having a blast serving chili from Nieuport 17's tent at Nepenthia beer garden. It wasn't just night and day in a literal sense; he was a better version of himself. Our interview took place in Nieuport's kitchen during dinner service, as he ran back and forth between the line and his “desk.”
Could you explain to those not familiar the significance of the name of your restaurant?
Nieuport 17 was named after a French fighter plane by the founder and creator, who was a naval pilot.
What did you purchase from the Tustin Farmers' Market last week?
I picked up a variety of beets for our beet salad–for the main component, as well as a dehydrated garnish.
One food you can't live without:
I love cheese!
You were previously at French 75. What did you know about the closure, and how did you end up at Nieuport 17?
I was not informed about the closure of French 75 until the day after our final service [on Dec. 2, 2012]. I ended up at Nieuport 17 via Craigslist. I had my résumé on it, looking for a kitchen, when Cameron Irons reached out to me to be a part of an Aviation dinner at the restaurant. A week later, we spoke again, and a position had opened up. I happily accepted.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
TASTE EVERYTHING YOU ARE MAKING!
Anthony Bourdain is my favorite chef because of his wild stories, funny sense of humor and vast food knowledge. He has this quote: “You either go for money or for experience. You have two choices in this industry.”
We hear you're changing up the Barnstormer Bar menu. How?
I am taking a slow approach to change. I am trying to add some fun dishes that are outside the box, such as my country-fried duck rillette!
Your earliest food memory:
As a young boy, helping my grandmother and aunts with holiday dinners. Everyone else would be in the next room, watching the football game. I would be hanging out in the kitchen, looking at what my aunt, my grandma and my mom were cooking. I wanted to cook, try and taste something.
I got to go out to Florida to see my grandparents for the weekend about a month ago. It was cool to be back in the kitchen where it all started.
What do you recommend for first-timers at Nieuport 17?
My escargot to start. My new swordfish special: charbroiled swordfish, Lyonnaise potato and grilled pineapple-raspberry chutney. For dessert, my deconstructed candy apple is a must-have!
What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
I would have to say a White Russian with a little extra Kahlua down at Godfathers Bar in Tustin.
How are the responsibilities between you, as chef de cuisine, and executive chef Marco Colin divided?
Chef Marco and I work as a dynamic team, each bringing unique ideas and experiences to the kitchen. For the most part, Chef Marco runs the daytime, and I relieve him to run the night shift.
Favorite meal growing up:
My favorite meal growing up was a caesar salad, fried mozzarella and lasagna. Finishing with a tiramisu at Da Bianca Trattoria in Orange.
Where was your most recent meal?
My most recent meal was at Da Bianca Trattoria. I went with my other favorite–farfalle veniziana, “Greg Moro style” [with mozzarella melted over the top]. It's amazing!
Strangest thing you've ever eaten:
Probably a fish eyeball. Although, it isn't very weird.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own and Da Bianca Trattoria):
Spoonful in LA and Chapter One in Santa Ana.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Beef stroganoff for a vegetarian. There isn't much you can do for that.
Is there a dish you'd like to learn how to make?
I am very curious about working with hydrochlorides. Molecular gastronomy is very interesting.