In the kitchen with…
Chef Shane Moore of Spenard Roadhouse
Story by Randi Jo Gause • Photography by Photo Arts by Janna
He draws foodies from across the state by serving up fresh, authentic dishes with an unmistakable contemporary flair. Still, 33-year-old Chef Shane Moore of Spenard Roadhouse has no problem admitting that there are some very basic secrets to his culinary concoctions: keep it simple, fresh and fun. "My favorite ingredients are things I can catch, pick or grow as fresh as possible, and local ingredients," he explains.
Moore's holistic approach to cooking draws inspiration from the surrounding environment, where many of the organic, local ingredients featured in his dishes are harvested from. He pays tribute to his mother and grandmother for introducing him to cooking with fresh ingredients while growing up. "A perfect day for me would be catching a salmon, picking wild mushrooms and wild berries and bringing it home to the kitchen," he muses. "I like gardening, foraging, hunting and fishing, and in doing this I have developed a passion, appreciation and respect for all of these wonderful ingredients."
A completely self-taught chef, Moore didn't receive professional culinary training – his humble culinary beginnings started with a stint washing dishes in northern Michigan. Afterwards, he attended college in Montana, but continued to surround himself with cooking by working in local kitchens to earn extra money. Moore became more and more immersed in the industry, and eventually chose to leave school to pursue his culinary endeavors.
When he moved to Alaska in 1998, he began as a chef at the renowned Glacier Brewhouse. Two years later, he landed a position at the famed Sacks Café and Restaurant, where he spent the next nine years. It was his time at Sacks Café that the opportunity to experiment with different ingredients and work alongside local culinary talents that truly elevated his cooking skills.
In 2009, when the founders of Sack's Café decided to open a contemporary, eclectic restaurant counterpart called Spenard Roadhouse, Moore jumped at the opportunity. The restaurant's sourcing of locally grown ingredients and fresh, seasonal produce and seafood is befitting for Moore, since many of his dishes are inspired by natural, organic ingredients found right in Alaska's backyard. "Seafood and vegetables are my favorite things to prepare," says Moore. "The Alaskan cuisine allows us to use the freshest seafood and vegetables available."
Even in a competitive business where simplicity is often overlooked, he's managed to attract a following of not only foodies, but other chefs who are fascinated by his modern twists on basic ingredients as well. "I like experimenting with food…there are so many ways to manipulate an ingredient without it losing its integrity," he describes. "A tomato can easily be a tomato sorbet and taste like it is still fresh from the vine, so when I'm developing recipes, I like things to taste true to their nature."
And experiment he does. Moore collaborates with other Spenard Roadhouse chefs to develop two unique daily specials rotated each week, which is how the locally heralded Bacon Jam Burger was conceived. The dish's flavorful and unexpected combination of grilled apples, arugula, cambozola cheese, bacon jam and house-crafted mayonnaise were a hit with customers and quickly became a mainstay on the menu. "It combines a comfort food feel of a cheese burger with a contemporary flair using elevated flavors and components," he explains.
Moore gives aspiring chefs the same advice his mentors have offered him: to stick to the basics, but embrace experimentation. "Try new things every day to incorporate them into your everyday cooking, but you must remember to keep it simple," he adds. "Crowding dishes with too many elements and techniques will mask the true intention of the dish."
It may be a career, but cooking is a passion Moore will not soon relinquish. "I hope to stay in the kitchen for the rest of my life," he muses. "I hope to open up my own kitchen one day."