Chef Josh Moroney is particularly upbeat about 2021. He was promoted to senior Sous chef in December 2020. In double-quick time, too!
Josh had only re-joined Nomad – the Surry Hills 1-hat Mediterranean-style restaurant – originally to work as a Junior Sous Chef under highly respected Exec. Chef, Jacqui Challinor, when it reopened at its original Foster Street site in November 2020.
The newly promoted chef first worked at Nomad at the start of his career but now has greater responsibility for Nomad’s in-house prepared dishes.
“Most are either cooked, have elements that have been cooked over the woodfire grill or inside the woodfire oven” says Josh who is keen to make mention of the “house-made flat bread that’s cooked right in the base of the woodfire oven, to order”.
“I wanted to cook amazing, wholesome tasty food for others”
It all began for Josh from a young age who recalls that he always wanted to become a chef, “ My great grandmother was Hungarian and I have memories of her always cooking amazing food. It was at that time I
decided I wanted to cook amazing, wholesome tasty food for others.”
Aged just 14, the aspiring young chef began working as a kitchen hand before starting his apprenticeship two years later. There were stints at Shell Harbour, south of Wollongong and Rockpool Bar and Grill, Sydney and under Peter Ridland at Jonah’s Whale Beach Restaurant, Palm Beach. Then back to the city at Bistro Moncur and Nomad.
But suddenly a change in direction, far from the familiar Sydney restaurant scene.
First Head Chef role at the age of 23
Josh explains, “It was in June of 2018 that a close friend chef of mine, Elijah Holland (Head Forager and sous chef of Noma Australia) asked me to work with him in opening up a restaurant in Shanghai.” It eventually led to be his first Head Chef role – at the age of 23.
Josh says that working in China was “probably the most exciting times of my career to date”. Over just 14 whirlwind months, Josh opened up and ran a restaurant called Cpearl, and during the spring/summer season, worked as sous chef under Elijah at Botanik, part of the cPearl group of restaurants.
“At Cpearl we cooked all fresh produce over wood fire and charcoal, along with making charcuterie for all six restaurants in the group”.
16 course degustation menu
Botanik was a rooftop garden restaurant with more than 180 edible plants and herbs featured on the menu. “We would open Thursday to Sunday with 30 covers for dinner each night offering a 16 course degustation menu – all locally foraged, sourced and produced from around China”. In their first year of opening Botanik won Time Out Magazine #LoveShanghai Restaurant of the Year, 2018.
However, by late August 2019, at the end of his second season at Botanik, Josh had decided to move back to Australia. It was another swift career move that initially saw Josh back working in small restaurants until re-joining Nomad three months later.
A love and passion for charcuterie and cured meats
It also gave Josh time to reflect on how his recent cooking experiences had transformed his life and provided personal insight as a chef in such a short time.
“Within the last 3 or so years I’ve really gained a love and passion for charcuterie and cured meats. I get so excited over the process of breaking down a whole pig into different muscle groups. To see the final product on the plate 12 weeks later is a real, proud moment”.
Sleep deprivation, long working hours and ‘curveballs’
Josh is philosophical about the pressures and stress of the restaurant kitchen. He suggests that stress can be keenly felt because “chefs are perfectionists”.
“Everything has to be perfect because essentially you’re putting your name on the plate. Josh points to many possible causes of stress, such as sleep deprivation, long working hours and ‘curveballs’:
“One of the specific ingredients isn’t available from your supplier, staff retention…the list can go on. As you get to a higher position in the kitchen the list increases because you now also have the stress of hitting your weekly/monthly targets, kitchen appliances not working”
Away from the pass – being outdoors and clearing the mind
Josh says he has many ways to combat the stresses of the kitchen. “As I’ve grown older I’ve really learnt that having a good support network is so beneficial. It’s always good to have someone on the other end of the phone to talk to about your day whether it be a family member/friend or a partner”.
He also believes that getting away from the pass should involve being outdoors and clearing the mind. “It allows your to switch off and just take in the fresh air. It’s good to join in on other group activities outside of work whether that be other sporting activities or just small reading groups to allow the healthy work/life balance”.
Like so many chefs we interview Josh says hospitality is his ‘passion he lives and breathes everyday’. “Going into the restaurant doesn’t feel like walking into work, it feels like walking into a family household. That’s what hospitality is to me, its family”, adding that, “working as a chef allows you to work with so many other chefs from around the world and connect with them”.
Special pop up events with other highly acclaimed chefs
Josh sees his goal in the next five years as learning and gaining as much knowledge and experience under highly respected and acclaimed chefs. He one day dreams of opening up his own restaurant.
“I’d love to open up something small on a farm or in a place like the Hunter Valley where a lot of the produce is grown and farmed onsite or locally foraged. It would amazing to have special pop up events with other highly acclaimed chefs, or up and coming chefs provide a small intimate experience for the guests to connect with the chef”.
Take pride in “what you put on the plate”
Josh also has advice for younger chefs just starting out on their career path. “Turn up to work on time and always ask questions – even if you think they’re stupid questions”. He recommends that young chefs should take pride in themselves and “what you put on the plate”, and to try find a healthy work-life balance.
“Be prepared to have less of a social life. I was lucky starting at a young age and it was already drilled into me. But for those starting out in their early 20s it can be difficult and a shock sometimes having to work most weekends, and not attend events or parties”
Josh finishes on a practical and positive note, “It’s never going to be easy, there will be many ups and downs but at the end of the day it can be such a rewarding profession”.