Meddlesome Moth's Chad Kelley: It's a Joy to Be Simple
The problem with bars with food is bar food. But Chad Kelley, 34, executive chef at the Meddlesome Moth, has fixed that problem with choices like meat pies, mothballs, venison tartare, arctic char and pork belly. Nary a wing or mozzarella stick in site.
Meddlesome Moth's Chad Kelley at work, pairing food with the restaurant's enormous beer collection.
Good thing. Any of the brews on the massive and impressive beer list at the Moth (120 beers, with 40 of them on tap, to be exact) would be embarrassed to be served with such greasy, pedestrian fare.
In Day One of this week's Three-Course Meal, we catch up with Kelley and get his thoughts on the national food scene. Tomorrow, he's bringing it home.
Who are you?
I'm originally from Southern California. I went to Culinary School at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. I have lived and worked in Southern California and a small Brew Pub in Flagstaff, Arizona, as well as Indiana.
(Note: Kelley was once an All Star at In-N-Out in Southern California. He was also a sous chef at Beaver Street Brewery and executive chef at the Oceanaire Seafood Room.)
How did you get this gig?
My last restaurant was experiencing some financial hardships; I was a few months away from my wedding and was just straight out tired. I decided to take some time off to spend with my wife before the wedding and survey the market while enjoying some down time. Shortly before the wedding I got a call from Shannon Wynne, and he wanted to meet with me about his new project. Cool. My first interview lasted almost two hours. We looked over floor plans, talked about menus, restaurants, service styles and a little about what he was envisioning. After a about a week of "interviews," I was asked to do a tasting at Shannon's house, and it was perfect. Nailed it. Some things he liked, others not so much. But it was the flavors he was looking for. From then on I was on the team.
What's the deal with food?
People are not necessarily obsessed with the food as much as they are with the memories or the nostalgia of it. Food is a conductor of emotions: It can make you happy, excited, energized. I know it's way over publicized right now but my best example would be In-N-Out.
I grew up with it. It was my first restaurant job, and I opened new stores for them before I headed off to culinary school. The nostalgia of the place is what draws me to it. So many great memories. One in particular is while working one day I handed a lady her order. It was a new store in Northern California, and the look of excitement and happiness on her face was priceless. I felt so good to be involved with that memory I knew I was doing the right thing by sticking with the restaurant industry.
Who eats at your place? (Come one, give us the goods.)
Dirk Nowitzki, Daryl Johnston, Laura Bush -- those are the ones that stick out the most.
Who works at your place?
I have a great team in place but we don't have any super crazy stories. Wish we did now....
What is up with the national food scene and how does your restaurant fit into it?
I think The Moth is right were we want it to be. On the national scene we are seeing a more "no frill" style of cooking/presentations. The comfort food trend coupled with the sustainable movement has caused the California style cuisine to resurface and take a more front row seat on this roller coaster. I am seeing a lot more of Alice Waters in today's menus. What does that mean? Simple, unadulterated, fresh food.
If you could stab one Food Network person who would it be?
That's tough, they all have their moments but at the front of the line would be all the judges from Chopped. That show is ridiculous and how the contestants are so harshly criticized... yeah, not a fan.
If you could be best friends with one Food Network person who would it be?
Alton Brown. Guy is down to earth.
Why are so many people in the United States so overweight?
That's our culture. The whole fast food nation and then big chain restaurants telling people that huge oversized portions of useless carbs is a good thing. People want "VALUE" and we all have this ingrained perception that bigger is better. Well...we're bigger.