Derik Moran of Nick and Eddie: Chef Chat, part 1
His goal: to make good food accessible to all.
photos by Michelle Leon
At 24 years old--a time when most of us are/were still getting lost and found--Derik Moran is celebrating his 14th year in the kitchen. Starting at the age of 11 at a small resort in Wisconsin, he moved into fine dining at the age of 14 in Birchwood, Minnesota, at the Tagalong Golf Club and Resort. At 16 he took over as sous chef, and at 18 he began running the resort's kitchen. Moran ran both the front and back of the house, with responsibilities that included everything from the design of the wine list to organizng hundreds of banquets a year.
Born in Colorado and raised in Wisconsin, Moran has been in the Twin Cities for two years. When asked about his early cooking influences, he says his parents cooked humble food, traditional home-cooked meals, while citing his grandma as the one who taught him how to bake bread. While his background started with Midwestern Americana, his training continued as he studied French and Italian cuisine, and he adopted strong hints of Southern flair. " I always loved the food of the South. I spent time there when I was younger, in the Carolinas, Georgia, and I also spent time in New Orleans a little over a year ago," says Moran.
After moving to the Twin Cities, he spent time as a line cook at Porter & Frye, where he refined his technique and learned new tricks while getting to know stellar local chefs. After working as Steven Brown's sous chef at Nick and Eddie, Moran took over as head chef last August.
Moran's goal is to use the best ingredients to create the finest meal possible for a wide spectrum of diners. He wants his food to be unpretentious, fun and artful. He considers Nick and Eddie a bistro in the traditonal sense of the word--a bar that serves food. Focusing on accessability, he has been experimenting with the bar plates--something different each night for $8, big enough for a light meal. His favorite recent plate was shrimp etouffee, with fresh grit cakes, adouille and micro-rubarb shoots.
We recently talked with Moran and got to know this chef--accomplished beyond his years--a little better in this three-part chef chat.
What was your proudest moment as a chef?
Initially, it was the first real personal write-up I got in the city, but this morning was the single proudest moment: I just did a photo shoot with Mpls./St. Paul Magazine, and I was photographed with Tim McKee, Alex Roberts, Lenny Russo--all these important chefs--and I felt very proud to be included.
What are the advantages or disadvantages of being so young in this business? Well, mostly I see advantages, being ahead and 13 years deep with no formal training. I have had some great opportunities--like four or five years ago I traveled to a wine tasting and met John Besh--New Orleans chef, Next Iron Chef finalist, James Beard Best Chef Southeast, 2006. He was so humble and gracious. Sixteen months ago, after leaving Porter & Frye, he called me up, flew me to New Orleans to check out farms and his restaurants as an extended job interview. He did end up hiring someone locally, but still...
What do you think is the best food city in America? Charleston, South Carolina, Chicago, San Francisco, and obviously New Orleans.
What is your favorite music to cook by? Punk. Grew up with it, still listen to it everyday.
What are the rules of conduct in your kitchen? Everything has its limits: Work hard, play hard, respect everyone, know your place and your role. Never tell anyone that they can't laugh or joke, when you work hard you are able to get away with more. I want an environment where you can have fun. And no matter what, do the best job you can.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in America? No. Too hard to choose. That would be like choosing your favorite album--there will always be more than one.
What was your most embarrassing moment in the kitchen? One day working as a sous chef at the resort the chef messed up a whole banquet--things were raw, not serveable. We ended comping a $20,000 event--the only event that I ever worked on that went wrong.
What is your favorite dish to cook at home? Macaroni and cheese. I don't eat much at home since I work so much--90-100 hours a week, and I am so used to being in an environment where you have everything you need. No time to cook at home.
A recent offering.
. We'll talk more with Derik Moran tomorrow in part 2 of Chef Chat.
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