Masterchef S02 ep9 : Matt Moran, Aria Restaurant, [Sydney]

Interview with Matt Moran

Following in the footsteps of his close friend Gordon Ramsay, Matt Moran also has his TV show "THE CHOPPING BLOCK" as well as consulting for Singapore Airlines.


Moran: When I first started cooking which was 24 years ago, you know I was only a 15 year old
lad and just basically stumbled into cooking but fell in love with it. I suppose Aria has always been
a dream.

Moran: I grew up out west in a place called Blacktown which is a pretty rough sort of suburb, there
was only myself and one other guy doing cooking at school, or home economics was what we
called it back then. Me and my mate and about 16 girls you know so you can sort of half
understand why.

Moran: Prior to living out west we had farms so you know I had a little bit of that sort of produce
in my blood. We used to slaughter our own meat and things like that so there was a bit of a you
know a bit of a sort of a passion for that so I thought I might have been a butcher and I did a little
bit of butchery during work experience and for some reason I thought you know maybe you know
being a baker could be really good you know because I sort of can finish at midday and you know
go and do whatever I like. So then it was a bit of a compromise to do the both and decided to be a

Moran: And my first job was on weekends at an RSL Club and they had offered me an
apprenticeship but dad wouldn’t let me leave school until that had started so I sort of had six
months to kill and I got a job at a place called Le Berhelene which back then in the mid 80’s was
one of Sydney’s top restaurants which I had no idea.

Moran: On my first day as a trial I couldn’t believe what they were doing with food you know it
was things I’d never seen before and I came very much from a family that was a piece of protein
and three veg and you know I thought I hated seafood, I’d never eaten it you know until I was
working in a kitchen. You know I really thought that I didn’t like it but I’d never eaten a piece of
seafood in my life.

Moran: We were open dinner six nights a week and used to start early in the morning and you
finish late at night and that was basically the way it is but as a 15 year old kid coming from
Blacktown, you know probably the wrong side of the tracks and you know a bit rough around the
edges that whole discipline thing was a great thing for me. I thrived on it but you know at the same
time I sort of knew that I was doing alright because I wasn’t getting the bollocking as much as the
guy next to me.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

Moran: I vividly remember you know being on a train going to work because it was a good hour
and a half to work every day, and my father for two and a half years came and picked me up in the
middle of the night and drove me home and he always thought that I might have gone the other
way and you know the first question I’d get every night, is this what you really want to do, you still
really enjoy what you’re doing and I’d go dad, you know, I love this thing.

Moran: After five years what had happened is the owner had bought another place and he went to
concentrate on that and the restaurant manager, Peter Sullivan, and myself were pretty much
running LeBelle at that time, Peter Sullivan now is my business partner in Aria and you know
we’ve had some great restaurants together and I think we’ve been partners now for 17 ears.

Moran: It was very French where I came from so it was that real classical cooking technique. I
wanted to learn more about product, I had every intention of then travelling and there was a
restaurant called The Restaurant a place in Ultimo under Stephano Manfreidi, I had a good friend
who was a sous chef there, a guy called Scott Clarke, and he knew that I wanted to leave LeBelle
because the owner had come back to LeBelle and I felt a bit out of place all of a sudden so I’d
resigned and given him three months notice and Scott had mentioned to Stephano that you know
maybe I was going to leave. I was in the middle of service one night at LeBelle and I get a phone
call and it’s Steve Manfreidi saying do you want to come and work for me and at that point in time
it was so hot you know I thought geez I can’t turn it down.

Moran: To be really honest, no disrespect to Steve, he didn’t teach me how to cook a thing but
what he did teach me and what that restaurant taught me was produce. It was the time of you know
the flying Squid Brothers and Barry McDonald, Paddington Fruit Market and things were just
exploding and you know even the Coffin Bay Scallops and the fresh calamari and all that stuff that
we’d never seen, King George whiting, the sand whiting so it was really, really exciting times. I’d
never seen that sort of produce before.

Moran: Steve wanted to branch out and he bought the Paddington Inn back in about ’90 I think it
was and after about a year of owning it you know they wanted to get rid of it. Peter and I you know
we were still great mates from LeBelle you know he was saying you know we should do something
together one day and then when I knew that Paddington Inn wasn’t doing great, Peter and I
actually bought it in ’91 so that was pretty much the end of me working for people.

Moran: 21, 22 I think I was, 22 when we had taken it over. But we had no idea what we were
doing, you know no idea, you know we were up at 3am out at the markets buying our fruit and veg,
going to the fish markets, doing everything ourselves, so much energy and then you work all day
and then you go out and you know drink beer and play pool all night, and that’s basically what we
did. The first six months. I remember saying to Peter up in the office one day, you know how great
at this, and he’d look at the bank account and go how much money do we have in the bank, you
know, we’re rich, then we realised, we actually hadn’t paid anybody. I’m deadly serious.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

After six months?

Moran: Oh you know we’d been paying people here and there and then when we started paying
everyone we realised we weren’t doing a great job actually we weren’t making any money at all.

Moran: I was on a journey of being self taught you know I was so disciplined in what I did you
know I never went out, I never did anything from the age of 15 to 22, I’d sponge off anyone you
know, I became mates with David Thompson, you know I owned Paddington Inn but you know I
still wanted to learn a little bit of Thai so for a couple of Sunday nights I went and worked for him
for nothing you know, just to learn whatever I could.

Moran: I think if you love it you sort of start to understand it too and it’s something that I really do
passionately love you know it’s not just all about fame and TV and making money, it really isn’t.

Moran: But we had Paddington and we outgrew that and then we started Morans which was a fine
dining side café side and you know we won a lot of sort of accolades there, Best New Restaurant
and all that sort of stuff and then we branched out at Sous Chef and Maam we started a little pub
bistro a little bistro called Bon Femme in East Sydney with her and I did something else in the city
with someone else and you know we basically sold it all to do Aria.

Moran: Someone came to me one time and she said we’re doing some reality TV show called My
Restaurant Rules and we’re looking for judges and can I put you in front of the camera? I didn’t
even know what the show was, I had no idea, didn’t care really. I got a phone call a couple of
weeks later and they said oh, can you come and do a live audition. Our publicist here at Aria she
said yes, go and have some fun, so I went and had some fun and I thought this is good and this host
guy started putting scenarios, I started losing my temper, you know and saying you know you don’t
do it like that and I went off at them and then they came back and said you know we want you for
the show so I didn’t even know what the show’s about. Why do I want to go on your show? And
then they sort of started to explain it and I said no I don’t want to do that, well why are you here?
Well you asked me to come here and then that’s how it started and then they sort of you know say
if you got involved a publicist and the next minute I knew I was a judge on My Restaurant Rules.

Jewellery Theatre Elements

Moran: TV is not my main job. I love it for what it is, I get a rush out of it and a bit of an adrenalin
rush but you know at the end of the day I come back to where I belong and that’s as simple as that
and as long as I enjoy it I’ll keep doing it. It’s led to you know cooking shows you know good food
shows and stuff like that which you know you get up on stage in front of you know, when Gordon
was here we did the Good Food Show 2,500 people to me that is a total rush you know, and at the
same time what I’m trying to do is educate people and tell them more about food.

Moran: Gordon and I and I think most people in Sydney know that you know we’ve been best
mates for 15 years so you know there’s a long history there and we get on well and we both work
for Singapore and you know we both work for Grenada, you know there’s lots of synergies there
and whatever else and for him just being here of course we talk food you know he’s very
passionate about food still regardless. You know his TV has taken a different direction in many
ways because there’s lots of different shows. Nightmares in London is very different to Nightmares
in America you know America’s much more hard hitting, much more sort of aggressive as that’s
what the audience want there and you know obviously he’s been directed or produced that way. I
started with Restaurant Rules and now I have my own show the Chopping Block and you know the
first series you now we had a host and now the new series we don’t. I’ve sort of become an
extended role so you know it’s taking a little bit of a different direction again for me which is to
me interesting and fascinating.

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

Moran: There’s also a downside to it too you know you’ve got all these young kids that are getting
in to the industry for totally the wrong reason. You know what do you want to be in life, well I
want to be a celebrity chef, you know I can be Matt Moran, I can work for Singapore Airlines, I
can drive an Audi car, I can have a new watch I can you know, do whatever you know and but they
don’t realise 20 years of hard work to get there and you know it doesn’t come overnight.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Matt moran, Aria Restaurant, [Sydney]