The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2015

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30  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2015 CHEFS: ONE-ON-ONE WITH MERRILL SHINDLER T revor Moran is an Irish chef who made his bones cooking at Noma in Copenhagen (frequently cited as the world's greatest restaurant), before mov- ing to Nashville to sit in the catbird seat, cooking at an edgy restaurant called, of course, The Catbird Seat. For those who think Nashville is all about burgers, barbecue and beer, a glance at the hand-written Catbird menu—crab + flowers, snail eggs, morels + liver, fried duck egg + bottarga, aged beef hibiscus and so on—gives a notion that down in Music City, they're no longer living on Slim Jims and Twinkies; this is food that challenges, cooked by a laddie who could have been the model for J. P. Donleavy's Ginger Man. He's an Irish Man in Full. Merrill Shindler: When I think of Irish cooking, I think of the beer and whiskey that goes with it, more than the food. Trevor Moran: Well, yes, there was a lot of brown cooking, a lot of stews. They could be very good brown stews. But that's still what they were. What did you grow up cooking? I'd make little pizzas as a kid. I'd put some pre-grated mozzarella on a muffin and melt it. I wasn't a born chef. I had to learn. Was it just a job at first? In my early 20s, I started working at restaurants in Dublin. I liked the energy, the craziness, the excitement. Was there culture shock going from Dublin to Copenhagen? It was the first time I'd ever gone anywhere. I'd been watching what they were doing from a distance. I really liked the notion of foraging for your ingredients. Have you been able to bring the joy of foraging to Nashville? There's much to explore here. It's all new—new wildflowers, new wild trees, small farms to find and develop. We found an amazing duck farm; a lot of our menu is built around their eggs and birds. Was the shock more intense moving from Dublin to Copenhagen, or Copenhagen to Nashville? I spent four and a half years in Copenhagen, finally getting comfortable with the cul- ture and the language. Nashville just took a month to get used to. People in Ireland and Nashville are actually very similar—at least we speak the same language. You don't need subtitles? Well, 40 or 50 times a day I have to tell people that no, I'm not Scottish. At The Catbird Seat, you work in a completely open kitchen, with diners seated around you. Do you have to watch your manners? Not at all. You can sneeze, curse, yell at people. It's performance. But you can't be mean to customers—because they're paying. Though I might tell people I'm going to shoot them. Otherwise, I have to be fully clothed and sober. Till the night is over. And is there an American ingredient you're enamored of? Concord grapes, which taste like edible Gatorade or Kool-Aid. They've got a definite American flavor. Trevor Moran THE CATBIRD SEAT, NASHVILLE PHOTO: ANDREA BEHRENDS

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