Jacob Kenedy Moro’s founders nurtured a boy fresh from school into the chef he is today, half a lifetime later. His first dish was emblematic of their food ethos
Samuel taught me to relish chaos and Samantha to relish order: both taught me to relish food
Moro threw a tidal wave across London’s culinary scene 20 years ago, and it buoyed me up as a chef in the flotsam. I first ate there a month after it opened, while still a schoolboy. I loved the food (still do, always will), so mum and a dear friend Zaki Elia encouraged me to speak with the Sams to ask if I could spend a week in their kitchen. For all their brilliance, they were momentarily foolish enough to let me in – the day I left school. A week became six months, and since then I have been a chef. The Sams’ food is at once comforting and exotic – exciting and wholesome.
The first dish I ever made at Moro, was their salad of seared beef with white grapes, barley, sumac and parsley, which seems so mad, utterly delicious and typical of the feeling behind their cuisine.
Samuel taught me to relish chaos and Samantha to relish order: both taught me to relish food. They taught me how little I knew by showing me so many new things, by building up rather than breaking down. They taught me to like cheese, to love fat, to work in a team, to make a family at work, to go out, to have fun, to hold my liquor, to love cooking, to love life, and to express those loves through food.
Sam and Sam taught me to be a chef. I may never forgive them, and can never repay them, but will love them for it, forever.
Seared sirloin salad with pearl barley, grapes and sumac
In this Lebanese recipe, sweet grapes balance the tartness of the sumac.
50g pearl barley
2 sirloin steaks (about 500g in total) A drizzle of olive oil
2-3 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
350g white grapes, halved and seeded Sea salt and black pepper
For the marinade
½ onion, grated
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp coriander seeds, freshly ground A pinch of freshly ground allspice A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing
1 small garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sumac
A pinch freshly ground allspice
A pinch freshly ground coriander seeds
1 Simmer the barley in 1 litre water for 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
2 Combine all the marinade ingredients and rub evenly over the steaks. Leave to marinate for 1-2 hours.
3 Blend all the dressing ingredients together and season.
4 When the steak is ready, get a griddle pan smoking hot. Rub the steaks with oil and lay on the griddle. The meat only needs about 30 seconds on each side. Season with salt as the sirloin is turned. Set aside to rest for a minute.
5 Meanwhile, put the barley, parsley leaves and grapes in a bowl, add the dressing and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Slice the steak into 1cm thick slices across the grain. Toss half with the salad and lay the rest of the strips on top. Serve immediately.