A Few Hours With David Moore…
Most of our Q&A profiles take place in the form of an email or telephone call to the person we want to get to know a little better. But, every now and then someone is nice/crazy enough to invite me down to meet them in person and spend some time with me and my SLR camera (wherever I go, Nikon comes with me).
This is out how I end up at the exciting Pied a Terre on this grey and not-quite-cold-but-not warm-either March afternoon having a ‘business’ lunch with David Moore and one of his very excellent shirts (and it is a very excellent shirt – floral and everything).A press release tells me tales of David’s prowess and TV credentials (there are many). The meeting is low tone. I’m staring at my iPhone, trying to fathom why it never really works and David taps me on the shoulder before clasping my hand in a moderately firm grip.
Behold David Moore (and his shirt)
First impressions? David’s an easygoing kind of guy, kinda reminding me of the slightly eccentric uncle I never had, he has a tendency to cock his head to the side and raise an eyebrow or two at things he finds particularly amusing (of which there are a fair few). He’ll also smile a smile that reminds me of an amused or naughty child – a kind of cheeky grin.
I guess you could call him mischievous – pretty youthful character -he shows me his recently bleached his hair, which was an experiment to stay ‘on brand’. We discuss my hair – which is probably more memorable than his (and not in a good way) – and how I will eventually deal with baldness (I plan not to go bald). From the start I get a good vibe from the guy – he’s one that can stand up to my particular brand of craic, despite his serious position overseeing various restaurants, firing, hiring, making media appearances and all of that deadly official stuff. I guess I like the guy.
I’m not the only one. His staff like him very much. So do his patrons. He seems to like them too. Three times we are interrupted (not that I mind) by enthusiastic diners he seems familiar with, some shaking his hand, all complimenting him on the ‘fine service’. And, oh, what a feeling that must be – you can see him lighting up every time. It makes my mirror neurons light up too and we all bask in the happy glow together. Or maybe it’s the wine. Probably both.
Speaking of wine, Plan A for me is to not drink alcohol. This is very often the plan. However, Plan A collapses when the sommelier presents a bottle of Txakoli (a type of rare dry white wine from the Basque region of Spain) – which is something I have wanted to try for quite some time. So, now all bets are off – but I regret nothing (OK, I regret the health of my liver… a bit). Plan B gets underway with gusto…
Wine pairings at lunch are something that doesn’t come all that naturally to me, though once I get started you’d think I was a pro, working my way through said Txakoli, a wonderfully creamy Riesling (David says creaminess comes from the oak) and ending on a 2006 Madeira that tastes like someone combined raisins and caramel then liquidated them into smokey perfection, before having them blessed by a Seraphim host. Damn son.
Back to the chat – so what does David like? I enquire. He likes to meet people and customers. He likes his work – which he describes like ‘being out every night’. He likes to help develop his staff’s careers. I mention that he’s something of a ‘nurturer’ and he seems taken aback a little, unsure if he likes the term. I use it anyway, sure he’ll grow to like it. David also likes getting involved in things directly – you see his eyes light up with a kind of manic glee when he recounts opportunities to have got ‘on the ground’ and waited at various events.
I ask about the food. David generally leaves recipe development to his various kitchens – speaking very highly of Pied A Terre’s head chef, Marcus Eaves, who decides what dishes do or don’t make the cut for the restaurant’s very deliberate menu. David also likes wine – telling me about various highlights in gustatory career, having once bought a magnum of Cristal in Paris for the fun of it (tapping his inner East Coast rapper?). I pick up a few handy tips on how to store red wine (not in high places) and he tells me about his new ‘wine refrigerator’ – which sounds like a fantastic excuse to buy more wine (not that excuses are needed).
Now we find out what he doesn’t like…
Well, not Tripadvsior specifically, but the people who take the time to leave hyperbolic one star reviews after misinterpreting something a waiter said or being stubbed when they cheekily ask for a discount (for what I am told are always trivial reasons). David recounts various experiences with patrons getting angry and things getting out of hand – it’s all a bit ‘he said, she said’ – reminding me of spats at school. He tells me that he does his best, responding to each complaint directly and civilly, which seems reasonable enough. Inevitably this is what happens when the public is able to leave ratings, and David’s not the only one to have to put up with it.
So what about the restaurant then?
Pied A Terre
Well, there was/is some wonderment if the staff were packing Faux French accents or real ones. I would suspect most are real, as David described to me about placing ads in French newspapers, advertising positions in the UK – and literally shipping people over for to fit specific job openings. I’ve not yet visited any of his other restaurants, but Pied A Terre is a small, intimate space with super attentive service, so well timed that it bordered on choreography (choreography was actually the word he used to describe this of fantastically timed, confined space waiting, and I will be stealing this word for my own future uses – ta David).
The food is comes in small sizes, presented artfully. All are delicious. All are tiny. All merely tease the mouth and leave you wanting more. MORE. No, this would not do for dinner, not for me – the human food hoover (a title I do not claim to have invented but one I do personify). However, at lunch this is OK I suppose. I’m not really a ‘lunch guy’. A hearty meal it is not. A piece of edible art, it is.
Back to David…
The Restaurant Industry
How about those food trends, David? He’s not so affected by trends, bemoaning the news media’s tendency to give all of it’s column inches to the ‘hot’ new restaurants who disappear just as quickly as they have appeared. An example-an old friend of his asked for recommendation on a new place to get dinner, and David was quick to remind the guy that the restaurant his friend used to rave about continually, but last visited 12 years ago still existed. He tells me that he’s always trying to help out his contemporaries in the established restaurant scene.
Back to David’s reluctant title of nurturer. David rates some of the best experiences he’s had to watching some of his staff develop from starting out into the people he employs today. He told me with great relish of the stories of how some of the people serving us ended up in his employees. Such as how he hired his sommelier – another amicable guy called Mathieu Germond – a man boasting an accent of incredible Frenchness that is matched only by his oceanic understanding of the wonderful world of vinoculture. Mathieu seems like a good guy to know – and hosts the restaurant’s wine tastings.
I ask David about his greatest dining experience. He recounts a tale of a tasting meal at Alain Ducasse‘s Louise XV in the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, back in 1997 in which the final course was two peach halves. The way he describes it gives some insight into the his restaurateur’s mind – initially the experience was a disappointment (he resented such a tiny portion), but upon reflection the idea struck him as brilliant (“how confident!” – he intones, shaking his head with wonder)
We end the meal with a chat about the rise of Paleo. He seems interested to hear of someone else who hates margarine (which is undeniably the devil’s piss) and loves butter possibly more than he does. He tells me that he’s a bit worried about the girls at his office chowing down on masses of fruit (“it’s all sugar!” he laughs) and we discuss the human genome and how maybe to rationalise that over the last few thousand years that we’ve evolved perfectly to consume wine. I can’t find a rationalisation but am simply reminded that life is short and we’re dead a long time (and probably dead sooner if you’re really into the margarine – just sayin’). More wine please.
Ending on this merry note I convince him to stand out in front of the restaurant for a few snaps, where again he is assailed by various people who want to thank him and his general manager (who’s off duty) who grabs him in a bear hug. Check out the picture.
The particularly wise human quote machine Ralph Waldo Emerson once described certain aspects of success as “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people…to earn the appreciation of honest critics, endure the betrayal of false friends… find the best in others; and leave the world a bit better…” If this is the case, then David seems to have succeeded on Ralph’s terms.
He also mentioned that I could come back and watch the sommeliers at work, next time they’re looking to see what makes the cut for Pied A Terre’s wine menu. I hope he means it!