Matt Moore: Chef, Author and Our Favorite Holiday Host

Matt Moore: Chef, Author and Our Favorite Holiday Host

Pop quiz: What do you call a cook, author, entrepreneur, musician, host, pilot, adventurer, and southern gentleman all rolled into one?

The answer: Matt Moore. (And oh yeah, we should also mention he is a doting husband to his beautiful wife, Callie, while also managing to be a hands-on dad to his two adorable young daughters, Vivienne and Everly, living in the coolest house in East Nashville. Is this guy real?)

You might recognize his name from his various cookbooks on display at White’s Mercantile. Or maybe you’ve caught a glimpse of him on The TODAY Show, serving up one of his famous pork dishes. But there’s a lot more to Moore than that (see what I did there?? There’s “moore” where that came from…).

Moore’s family emigrated from Beirut to America via Ellis Island, and eventually landed in Valdosta, Georgia. When we asked him when he made the move to Nashville, he replied, “Before everyone else.” He’s only kidding...sort of.

Moore moved to town in 2005 after college at the University of Georgia and landed what he calls a “real job” while also playing music on the side—“So original, right?” he laughs. “And I specifically left Atlanta so I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic,” he says. “That’s not working great for me these days in Nashville, obviously.”

Growing up, Moore’s home life was warm and inviting, which seems to have rubbed off on him today; his home and his family are similarly welcoming. “Mom and dad maintained an open home: kids, friends, and strangers were always welcomed around our table.” And when it came to food, his family shared the same love for sharing a meal that he still possesses today. “In our house, we were definitely the family who talked about what we were going to eat for Wednesday dinner at Monday’s breakfast,” he laughs. And Moore says he rarely remembers a family gathering where his grandmother didn’t spend her early morning hours rolling grape leaves by hand, followed by frying big batches of chicken—all in an effort to “feed our bellies after feeding our souls at Sunday mass.”

As a chef, Moore specializes in updated Southern cuisine with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. He's also a cast-iron and wild game enthusiast with extensive experience working over live fires.

His first book, Have Her Over for Dinner, a Gentleman’s Guide to Classic, Simple Meals, was named one of the best cookbooks of the year by The New York Times in 2010. His follow-up, A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen, was released to wide praise and acclaim in Spring 2015. His latest best-seller, The South's Best Butts, was named the #1 cookbook of the year in 2018 by The National BBQ and Grilling Association (and it was Luke Bryan’s Father’s Day pick for People magazine).

And when he’s not cooking, traveling, or writing, Moore is busy running his own fragrance and apothecary company, EastWest Bottlers, that he founded with two college friends. You know, just a casual side gig.

Is there anything the man can’t do?! (Spoiler alert: nope. He does all things. And he does them damn well.)

Which got me wondering: how on earth does he find balance in his life? A busy, successful career, tons of travel, plus two small kids. It  makes me break out into a sweat just thinking about it. Moore’s answer comes quickly and effortlessly.

“I have an incredible wife,” he says. “She puts up with me, keeps me in line, and supports all of my crazy ideas. Also, American Airlines is my best friend, and my Piper Cherokee (his plane) lets me time travel when the weather is good.”

Another huge factor  in Moore’s incredible balancing act is incorporating his family as much as possible. “I try to take my kids wherever whenever, especially as I’ve been spending more time abroad in France building our fragrance business. I love the idea of having them with me as much as I can.”

 Photo by Emily Dorio

Photo by Emily Dorio

All in all, Moore knows how to keep himself motivated—and, more importantly, how to keep himself grounded. “I like to wake up every single day feeling challenged,” he explains. “I like to have fun, and I try to be as kind and respectful to others as possible. And honestly, I do what I love, and I try to smile even when I’m doing the things I loathe (like spreadsheets). I know it’s cliché, but I feel very blessed and I always try to keep that at the forefront of my daily life.”

Moore's work has garnered critical acclaim from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, People, Southern Living, Esquire, Men’s Journal, FOX, VH1, and countless others, so naturally we’re beyond pumped to have him pop in on Broad Varieties to give us the lowdown on all things food and entertaining.

Since we’re all gearing up for holiday party season, we’ve found ourselves needing a little inspiration in the kitchen (okay, maybe a lot of inspiration…our “pigs-in-a-blanket” app just isn’t gonna cut it this year). Luckily, Moore is no stranger to hosting kick-ass parties filled with delicious food, strong drinks and even better conversation, So we asked him to describe what the Moore family might be serving at this year’s family gathering.

“Lately, I've really been into serving most items at room temp, or chilled -- which is common with a lot of Lebanese-style dishes,” he explains. “My momma is Lebanese, so that becomes my go-to food of choice around the holidays: you can't beat the food or the nostalgia.”

If you aren’t quite sure what a Lebanese-style holiday dinner might consist of, Moore explains in depth what he’d serve guests from the minute they step inside his home. I especially love how he ditches the predictable, traditional holiday party fare and instead opts for something totally unexpected.

 Photo by Emily Dorio

Photo by Emily Dorio

“For an appetizer, I love a big plate of stuffed grape leaves and assorted pitas, house-made hummus and cheese. Side note: the International Grocery Store at the Nashville Farmer’s Market carries some of the best jarred grape leaves and tahini in Nashville.” If your idea of a party appetizer consists of dumping a bag of cheese cubes and crackers on a plate, Moore is here to help you step up your hors d'oeuvres game. Check out his grape leaves recipe HERE.

After guests have settled in, Moore brings out the big guns. “For mains, I've been obsessed with a new technique I've dubbed ‘new vide’, which is a play on the sous-vide method, but just the opposite,” he explains. “It's less clean up and doesn't require any fancy equipment, either.”

When it comes to nailing this technique, Moore has a few tips and tricks to share. “I will literally cook steaks, fish and even pork or chicken as hot and as fast as possible,” he explains. Then, removes them from the heat when they are about 15 to 20 degrees from the desired internal temperature and cover them in foil. Putting the meat inside the foil while it’s still hot creates a mini-oven that allows the meat fully cook through. “It's a technique I copied from watching Pitmasters while writing my last book, and the results are not only fantastic, but the technique allows you to cook your main dishes hours in advance and simply serve when ready [-- even if that means at room temp!] A fragrant rice dish with some labneh on the side for your protein serves as a comforting holiday meal.”

And what’s a holiday shindig without the booze? Moore is a self-proclaimed beer and wine guy (“College taught me that I’ll never win the battle with tequila,” he laughs), but he’s a firm believer in stocking your home bar around the holidays.

“Having a signature cocktail ready for your guests is a nice touch,” he says. “I've never really been into rums, but I've had some amazing cocktails using dark rums that remind me of my liquor of choice: bourbon. As they say, you have one cocktail, you feel like a new man. The problem is, the new man wants another cocktail.” Truer words have never been spoken.

If you’re anything like me, being in charge of providing a meal, drinks and a good time for a group of people can feel nothing less than daunting. (Okay, a little terrifying actually, but we’re trying to play it cool here.) Moore has a solution for that.

“Entertaining means you should be entertaining — not stuck in the kitchen while your guests are trying to enjoy themselves,” Moore says. “So, I'm all about doing as much prep and cooking in advance so that things are literally ready to rock and roll once my guests arrive.”

Sure, cooking and entertaining is a profession for Moore, but he considers it much more than just a job. “My favorite thing about hosting is the unity it brings,” he says. “It’s super cheesy but so true: food brings us all together, especially around the holidays. I like to think that our home is a revolving door of decent food, great guests, and even better conversation-- no politics.”

We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t press Moore for some more insider tips and tricks from the mind of an entertaining extraordinaire—and lucky for us, he was happy to oblige.

“Save your turkey carcasses and ham hocks!” he emphasizes. “I'm always making a turkey and Andouille gumbo or a white bean and ham soup with leftovers from my holiday meals. And, truth be told, those are my favorites of the season.”

At the end of the day, Moore has a pretty simple theory on the key to success in the kitchen, no matter what you’re cooking or who you’re cooking for: “Entertaining is all about timing.” He goes on, “As someone who writes cookbooks, I think most folks are always intimidated by the timing of cooking and serving different dishes. You don't want to cook your scallops and then start on a risotto.” 

Moore admits that timing sounds basic, but he’s met many a great cook who simply struggles with pacing out all their dishes to complete a meal. “Until you get great at timing, go with some easier dishes that can be prepped, cooked, and held way in advance. Then keep working on honing your skills as you progress in the kitchen.”

Either that, or just finagle your way into an invite over to Moore’s house this Christmas. (That’s my plan, anyway!)

Up next, Moore has completed the manuscript and travel for his grilling book titled Serial Griller, and has also started production for a television series under the same name. For more info on Moore, including links to purchase his cookbooks, visit www.mattrmoore.com.

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