When Matt Moran left school at 15 to become an apprentice chef, little did he know he would one day own ARIA, one of Sydney’s premier restaurants, overlooking the Opera House.
Former country boy from Tamworth, Matt Moran, began his working life with a four-year apprenticeship perfecting classical French cooking skills. It was a period of discipline, but Matt didn’t mind because he knew that if he didn’t succeed; he would have to go back to school.
After completing his apprenticeship and working for another four years, he teamed with his business partner Peter Sullivan and became the head chef in their own restaurant in 1991. The restaurant holds two coveted Chef’s Hats awarded by the Sydney Morning Herald’s 2003 Good Food Guide. Matt likes to give something back – taking on New Apprentices in his harbourside restaurant.
“The great thing is that it’s not just a benefi t for me. It’s giving something to the industry. It’s encouraging young kids and I have always been a big believer in that,” he said.
The advertisement builds on his work with Restaurant and Catering Australia where he promotes apprenticeships by talking directly with Year 11 and 12 students in classrooms. By telling his own story and taking questions like “How much money do you make?” he gives them a realistic idea of what becoming a chef is going to be like.
“If we don’t have apprentices we don’t have an industry.” Not surprisingly, 8 of the 24 kitchen staff at ARIA are New Apprentices and Matt is proud of the close working relationship they all enjoy.
“They mean a lot to me. It’s a real team in the kitchen. It’s something you have to have to get the best out of them. You’re the boss, but you’ve got to be their mate too.
“I’m fairly hands on … swanning in and out of the kitchen … working with them and showing them exactly what we want. We expect a lot from them from day one. It all comes back to me because it’s my name on it. So what we want on the plate has to be perfect.”
Matt’s constant striving for professional excellence led to an invitation in May 2003, to cook for 100 people at James Beard House, a New York culinary institution.
“It is extremely prestigious to be asked to cook at James Beard and I was very honoured. There’s only been two other Australian chefs that have been asked.” He took three of his staff including his fourth-year New Apprentice, Scott Last.
At 34, Matt says he is still learning his trade and believes he is far from the top of his profession. “I’ve still got something to achieve and somewhere to go. When I started 18 years ago, I never thought I would own my own restaurant by the time I was 30. But it hasn’t been easy. It’s been a long hard slog.”