Paul Moran—or, more precisely, Paul Moran’s cooking—first came to my attention back in 2013, at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island, Vancouver. Moran was then 26, and a finalist in the inaugural running of the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship, a culinary competition David Hawksworth had launched with a view to emulating the Roux Scholarship in the UK.
by Jacob Richler
Chefs like Normand Laprise, Anthony Walsh and Mark McEwan had flown in from across the country to help local luminaries like Vikram Vij do the judging. I was the lone journalist on the panel. But, fortunately, we all saw eye-to-eye on one thing—the young chef who emerged from the black-box competition with a perfect plate of almond crusted steelhead trout had shown in his plating a degree of originality and finesse that put him ahead of all other competitors.
And so Paul Moran was issued a cheque for $10,000, and—courtesy of the collective connections of the chefs on the judging panel—given his choice of the world’s restaurants to work in. He’d already done time in Quebec, Dubai and France, so he chose Enrique Olvera’s Pugol in Mexico City, ranked the 20th best restaurant in the world on Restaurant Magazine’s most recent S. Pellegrino-sponsored list.
The next time I caught up with him was in February 2014, when he was competing in Toronto in the Canadian finals of S. Pellegrino’s new talent search Best Young Chef in the World, with finals taking place in Milan in June. Moran won again. Afterwards, I had to ask the deeply serious young chef if he found these competitions to be, well, fun.
“Yes,” Moran answered. “Unless you lose.”
Thus far, then, it’s been a riot for him. Moran has been cooking competitively since he was 14. He has entered in some 16 competitions, finishing in the top three on 10 occasions, and he’s won eight. But this is not what I find interesting about him. What I liked was what he cooked that day, the same dish he’ll be taking to Italy: blood pigeon, the breast cold-smoked over cherry wood, then roasted and served with leg en confit, blood-flavoured polenta, and a natural pigeon jus—the latter encircled by a faux-noodle of gelatinized pigeon stock, so that it would keep its perfectly circular form on the plate.
Great flavours—and, above all, the flavour of the pigeon and its blood, unifying every element on the plate. There was also a display of solid technique—classic methods like roasting (without sous-vide cheating), married to contemporary ones (the noodle). You would imagine he practised the dish a lot. But it turns out he had not done so at all, because he’s currently employed at a heli-skiing lodge in the town of Nakusp, BC (population 1,500), and not one of them in the blood pigeon business.
Whatever happens in Italy, Moran soon hopes to open a small restaurant and lodge with his wife Stephanie, who is also a chef. For my part, I’m hoping it’s easier to access than is Nakusp.
And on to the Milan Expo
In the second round of the Canadian finals for the S. Pellegrino Young Chef award, Paul Moran faced off against two other very strong contenders, both from Toronto restaurants. Cara Davis, from George Restaurant, fielded an excellent plate of quail roulade with beets and smoked apple. And Hayden Johnston of Richmond Station prepared a duo of duck—salt-baked breast with braised leg. After his hard-fought victory, Moran will now spend some of the months leading up to the international finals in Milan, Italy finessing his signature dish with input from Canada’s culinary coach, chef Susur Lee.
Moran will then face off against 19 other regional finalists in the Italian Pavillion at the Milan Expo, from June 25 to 27. The culinary competition will coexist with a fashion showdown, pitting young designers from around the world against each other in a competition to be judged by the editors of Vogue Italia. Our designer—sourced from Toronto Fashion Week—will, like the other 19 stylists, create an outfit paired to a chef’s signature dish. The attending public will then select the Best Couple Chef & Stylist, with coverage in Vogue Italia.
To learn more about Paul Moran visit finedininglovers.com