By Gabby Leighton
Photo by Mark Morgan
A native of Calgary, Alberta, Matthew Taylor moved to Arizona during high school and started his culinary career at the young age of 15. Since then, he has worked alongside nationally recognized chefs in top restaurants around the Valley and country. Taylor has always found his way back to his adopted home of Phoenix and is now the executive chef of Mora Italian.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef? My fascination with the kitchen began when I was working as a dishwasher, but my passion was ignited while attending the EVIT culinary program here in Mesa. I owe a lot to chef Michael Turcotte and the other instructors there for realizing my potential as cook and turning a love of food into a viable career path.
What about the Arizona food scene has kept you coming back? Honestly, the people. I have found and kept so many lifelong relationships (including meeting my wife Melissa) from being a part of restaurants here.
To you, food is: Sharing and giving. A selfless experience that crosses borders and cultures, and a catalyst for memories you might not have otherwise.
If you weren’t a chef, you’d probably be… A marine biologist or archeologist. I have always been fascinated with work related to evolutionary studies, and the opportunity to spend a lot of time outdoors and have nature as part of my office.
When you’re not cooking, where would we find you? Outdoors or spending time in small town Arizona. We love our getaways up to Jerome, Prescott and down to Bisbee, or on the ocean whenever possible.
What food is your guilty pleasure? Ice cream and pecan pie. I’ve been known to put a whole pie down in one evening only to pay the sugar coma price tag later, but it’s worth it.
Favorite food memory: A meal when I dined solo at Cochon while working in New Orleans. It was 2006, the restaurant had recently opened, and the city was slowly coming back to life after [Hurricane] Katrina. Despite all the devastation there was a definite energy of hope and celebration in the air. That meal and restaurant at that time seemed to be a culinary precursor to all the wonderfully prideful cooking that was to come as everyone rebuilt.
Favorite food to cook: I really enjoy making pâtes and terrines. I have a soft spot for classic and often laborious preparations.
5651 N. 7th St., Phoenix; 602.795.9943; www.moraitalian.com.