Josh Moore grows his own—produce, that is, on a 10-acre farm near Taylorsville. When the fruits and vegetables are ripe, they end up plated at Volare, where Moore is executive chef and partner.
Outside the garden, he pursues an eclectic batch of activities, from power lifting to creating sugar art. These days he’s also renovating his 110-year-old farmhouse. The kitchen was the first room done. “I put in a commercial Vulcan six-burner, double oven range with a two-foot griddle-broiler combo,” he says, smiling. “It’s beautiful.”
Current Restaurant: Volare Italian Ristorante
Previous Restaurants: Porcini’s, Vincenzo’s (pastry chef assistant at age 15)
Neighborhood (current): Taylorsville
Hometown: Louisville (high school: Seneca)
Significant Other: Lindsay Franzen, girlfriend
Kids: Son Gibson, 3 1/2
Favorite Hobbies: “Antique collecting, power lifting—keeps me sane—and farming.”
Favorite Kitchen Gadget: Immersion blender
What is your first food memory?
“When I was a little kid, my mom and I would go to Florida a couple times a summer and shuck raw oysters. We always had a good time.”
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
“My grandmothers. They’d both cook big dinners and let me make a mess in their kitchen, from the time I could stand on a chair at the stove. Mom’s mom did a lot of baked goods and Dad’s mom did candies.”
Why did you choose to cook Italian cuisine?
“I always loved the simplicity of it and the focus on fresh ingredients. Seeing Agostino [Gabriele at Vincenzo’s] break down a whole side of veal really inspired me.”
What’s your greatest strength in the kitchen?
“Food artistry. I’m big into eating with the eyes first. I do ice carving and wedding cakes and sugar work. It comes from the pastry background. I put a lot of attention to detail.”
What’s your favorite go-to ingredient?
“I love truffles. And beef.” (He nods toward the bull tattoo on his forearm.)
Which seasonings don’t you respect? “Would Liquid Smoke be considered a seasoning? That imitation flavor—it’s awful.”
Which are underrated?
“Cardamom, mace, in pastry applications. And I love dried citrus, like for meat rubs—lemon and lime zest.”
Is there a guilty-secret ingredient in your kitchen—something you’d rather not be spotted using?
“At home I like a broccoli casserole with good ol’ Velveeta. Nothing I’d ever use in the restaurant.”
What’s your downfall?
“Trying to think outside the box. I get into classic Italian this and classic Italian that.”
What cooking skill required in your kitchen is the most difficult to master?
“The sugar work. It’s classic French sugar art: pulled sugar, blown sugar just like glass blowing. I’ve been doing it four years, and every day I learn a new little trick or master something a little more. It’s very temperamental and time-consuming. The humidity, if it’s too hot—it can be a headache.”
Dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a kitchen?
“I’ve burnt my share of nuts in the oven. That was my bad habit for a while. My boss [once] said he’d give me a raise if I could go a month without burning a pan of nuts.”
If you had to work for one chef in the world, who would it be?
“I would have loved to be yelled at by Julia Child back in the day. That would’ve been fun.”
What do you aspire to?
“Right now I’m so happy with the restaurant and how it’s doing and the staff. Down the road? Another restaurant here in town. I always want to be a part of this, but not just have this.”
What do you think is the next worthwhile food/dining trend?
“I think we’re going to see more focus on the local farm-to-table movement. It’s been big lately but I think it’s going to take off even more. Growing produce for the restaurant, I see the customers’ excitement and enjoyment. I think it’s a lifestyle now.”
If you could cook a meal for anyone, who would it be?
(Stumped): “Let me come back to that one…”
What music was playing in the kitchen last night?
“I don’t allow music when we’re open. During prep time, it’s usually some kind of rock or alternative. Or Johnny Cash. Love Johnny Cash.” (His expression turns thoughtful.) “That’s somebody I’d love to cook for. Love to just hang out with him.”
What was the last book you read?
“Meat.” (The River Cottage Meat Book, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Give us one reason Louisville should be considered a culinary destination.
“We have more independents per capita than Chicago. [And] Louisville’s such a melting pot. We have such a vast array of cuisines. You can eat anywhere in the world you want in Louisville. And the history, Churchill Downs, the bourbon distilleries — all that ties into the food scene too.”
What’s in your fridge at home?
“Kid’s stuff. String cheese and yogurts and juices. Other than that, a lot of unsalted butter. Bacon — always bacon. Capers. Pommery mustard.”
Is there anything in that home fridge you’d rather not admit to having?
“Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. My little boy loves it.” (Laughs.) “I eat it too.”
What food is your guilty pleasure?
“Any gummi candy.”
Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
“DiGiorno garlic-crust pepperoni pizza.”
Best cooking tip for a novice?
“Never start a recipe without reading it through start to finish first.”
Besides [your restaurant], what is your favorite restaurant in Louisville?
“Everybody always asks me, and my first response is always Jack Fry’s.”
Who are your favorite chefs?
“Growing up in Louisville and starting at a young age, I learned a lot. Agostino [Gabriele at Vincenzo’s], John Plymale from Porcini’s — they were mentors. Dean Corbett [Equus]. Kathy Cary [Lily’s].”
Other than your own restaurant, what’s the first place you’d take an out-of-towner?
“One of my favorite new restaurants is La Coop. Bobby’s a good friend of mine. He’s passionate.”
Your last food-related “wow moment” was?
“Boeuf bourguignon, Monday night. My girlfriend made that for dinner.”
Iron Chef Louisville: Who do you not want to battle?
“I don’t think there’s anybody I’d not want to battle. It’d be an honor to battle against some of the chefs I’ve looked up to for years.”
Who’s your dream battle, then?
“My dream battle? It’d be fun to battle against Agostino—the first chef I learned under. He taught me so much and helped mold my career. It’d be fun.”
What’s your last meal on earth, if you had the chance to choose?
“A rare ribeye with fresh Brussels sprouts and pasta alioli.”
Do you have any chef friends?
“Susan Hershberg, I would consider her a friend. I know a few, but don’t really hang out with them. Mike and I spent the day with Anthony and his wife for the Breeders’ Cup. That was enjoyable. I got to know him a little better. So, I’d like to consider him friend, but I don’t hang out with people. I’m kind of reclusive. I like people. I just really like solitude.”