“The food's been the same way for 40 years. Our regulars are 80 years old, and have been coming here for 40 years. So now we're really trying to aim for the next demographic, 30 to 60, and bring that next generation of regulars back here.”
Greg Moro's first job around food was at Claro's Italian Market in Tustin, slicing sandwich meats at the age of 16. He started getting regulars that would come in and want him to make up something for them. That's where he really started to play with food, using a sweet salami with a spicy capicola and creamy cheese– trying to find that perfect balance in something as simple as an Italian sub.
Read our interview with Gregory Moro of Nieuport 17, Part One.
And now, on to Part Two . . .
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I have never worked outside of the food industry, so it is hard for me to say. Hopefully, I would be in a field that I am passionate about as much as I am to cooking.
Do you have any skills that are non-food related?
I have a few different skills: stunts on my motorcycle, wheelies, skitching.
Where did you attend school to become a chef?
I attended the Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
Let's discuss the Father's Day menu:
The first course is a potato salad with whole grain mustard and sour cream. The dish started with the fact that I wanted to put whipped cream on a savory plate for summer. Why not? It's fun, it's different. Not many people do it. It's light, summery, fluffy. Let's try it.
So I have a smoking gun from poly science, and we take a pan and pour heavy cream in there, put plastic wrap on it and stick the hose from the smoking gun in there. We then turn the fan on and light it, and end up shooting hickory smoke into the container. It infuses the smoke into the cream, becoming a hickory smoked cream. Then we whip it, throw in sea salt and pepper, and place it in the corner (of the plate). And then we have charred squash and zucchini, chilled and rolled. The entire plate is cold.
The whole idea is as you're eating it, and you're getting each component, and you get to the whipped cream, it's supposed to trigger that memory of childhood. Being in your backyard during a barbecue during summertime. You can smell the barbecue. That's what I mean by when I put a plate out, I expect it to make you think, look at it, and wonder, “How did this end up being composed into one?”
Are you superstitious?
Slightly. . . .knocking over salt, then throwing it over the shoulder. And I knock on wood every day!
What were you up to five years ago?
Five years ago I was cooking with chef Pascal Olhats of Tradition by Pascal. Chef Pascal and I traveled around the country, cooking together at numerous places, such as The James Beard House, the Halekulani Hotel in Hawaii, Gulfstream airlines in Florida [Editor's Note: Their Hawaii and Florida trips were less than a week apart. And while he was home, Moro still covered shifts at Tradition. Talk about jet lag.], as well as comedian Drew Carey in LA, who was a childhood hero. He was great to meet!
When I transitioned from junior sous chef to sous chef, it got to a point where Pascal wanted me to create a new prix fixe menu daily. I had to come up with a three to four course menu every day. I had to sink or swim, and I started kicking. When I would cook him dinner every night, he would challenge me with things like “no butter”, “no garlic” or “no salt”. He would give me these things to not use to see what I would come up with.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Virginia Beach, but raised in Tustin for 24 years. I'm an east coast baby, raised in OC.
Last song playing on your radio:
The latest Pandora is usually playing The Neighbourhood or DJ Shadow radio station.
Last movie watched.
The last movie I watched was Three Stars, a documentary about Michelin starred restaurants.
Most recent thing you looked up online:
The last thing I searched was about food, of course! Always looking at new trends and ingredients. I love getting my mind going in some wild food ideas.
You mentioned something about “missing an island”?
I got a matching tattoo with my friend Jeff after we catered a meal in Hawaii. The gig was over late. We didn't want to go to a bar or any clubs, so we went and got a tattoo.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
When I am not in the kitchen, I am usually doing a few things. Either riding my motorcycle, mountain biking, long boarding around town and, of course, relaxing!