At Nashville’s The Catbird Seat, chef Trevor Moran and his small crew of cooks do a bit of nightly theater in the round—or, more accurately, in the “U.” In this restaurant without waiters, all the action takes place at center stage of the U-shaped dining bar. In his multicourse prix fixe tasting menu, Moran cooks up dishes that stress simplicity and impeccable ingredients—say, a combination of duck breast and duck liver, or a double portrait of the potato: silky purée and crunchy spud bits (he’s a native Dubliner, after all).
Moran came to Nashville in early 2014 via Copenhagen and Noma, chef René Redzepi’s acclaimed temple to foraged ingredients and Nordic culinary thinking. But although his four years at Noma (where he progressed to sous chef) gave the young chef a world of inspiration and pretty much all the food-world cred a cook can get, it didn’t mean Moran would try to create Noma II in Tennessee. He’s kept his cooking “without the pretentiousness and preciousness that can stick in your craw,” says critic Jim Myers of The Tennesseean.
The former music student, who has a soft spot for Danish metal bands, fell in love with cooking while working in a Dublin restaurant kitchen in his early twenties. “It’s so cheesy,” Moran said in an interview with nashvillescene.com, “but it’s just one of those moments where you’re like, “Oh, s#*(t. This is my life.” He then met Redzepi on a mini culinary tour of the States, London, and Scandinavia, and was so blown away by Noma that he made the decision to leave his job and pursue work there. And it was at Noma that Moran met Erik Anderson, one of The Catbird Seat’s founding chefs, who, along with co-founder Josh Habiger, chose Moran to take their places when they moved on to other ventures. And so far, the crush he has on Music City people and food is more than mutual.