By ASHLEY ANDERSON
Once Josh Moore was tall enough to reach his grandmother’s stove, he knew he wanted to cook for a living. But the executive chef and partner at Volare Ristorante has since become much more than a culinary artist. He’s also an accomplished agriculturist, who’s bringing the food from his farm straight to Volare’s tables.
Around the time Moore began working at the Frankfort Avenue restaurant in 2006, he purchased a former dairy farm in Taylorsville, Ky., and became inspired to harvest his own vegetables during the summer and fall. “The first year, I put out a couple dozen tomato plants, and then I was just like it’d be nice to have my own tomatoes at the restaurant, and it went over so well and guests loved it, so the next year I put out some squash, some zucchini and cucumbers … and then it’s just grown every year,” said the cuisinier, whose mother grew Sunflowers and Morning Glories, while his dad raised tobacco and cattle, plus drew hay when Moore was younger.
On Chef Moore’s 10-acre farm, you’ll not only find a one-acre garden for farming tomatoes and other vegetables, but an orchard filled with apple, cherry, plumb and pear trees. He’s also begun cultivating a berry patch featuring blue, black and raspberries. “It’s been a trial-and-error, learning experience for me,” Moore said. “I wasn’t a gardener or grower of stuff before I bought this place.”
In just its second year, Moore’s farm has expanded substantially with the help of his four-year-old son Gibson and girlfriend Lindsay Franzen, who is the “official tomato picker.” Moore’s colleagues at Volare also lend a hand with keeping up the land, a daunting task with Moore having added about twice as many plants to the current year’s patch.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Moore said. “It’s a lot of work; overwhelming at times, for sure. All the guys at the restaurant, the kitchen guys, they’ll come out a couple times a year and help me get the weeding caught up or they’ll come out in the spring and help me plant.”
Moore sells some of his harvest to Volare, where he uses fruit from his orchard in decadent pies and sauces, such as a grilled pear jalapeño chutney on a sea bass, and offers vegetables including cabbage, broccoli and Swiss chard as delicious daily specials. The tomatoes, however, have been Moore’s prized specialty.
“I work what I bring out of the garden into specials,” said Moore, who maintains his garden with only organic sprays. “The tomatoes are in a Mediterranean tomato salad all summer. I put out about 30 different varieties.”
An obvious supporter of local food, Moore also purchases edibles from Carol and Bruce Friedman of Canmer, Ky. “I’ve always been really into local,” he said of his recent interest in farming. “For me, I’m just very passionate about the food we serve at the restaurant, how everything’s prepared, and to be able to actually grow it from seed and bring it to the restaurant and know how it’s been handled, and how it’s been grown. That was the thing for me, just a pride thing.”
With a hugely successful year under his belt, Moore is looking to continue building on his farm, with an ultimate goal of adding about two more acres of garden and another acre to the orchard. He’d also like to eventually raise cattle and horses. Yet, for now his next venture is replacing his 62-year-old tractor. “My next big goal is to buy a new tractor that starts every time I turn the key and operates better,” he laughed.
From spending a few hours on the farm each day to cooking at Volare, serving as Lead Chef of the March of Dimes annual Signature Chef event and raising his son, Moore is left with a fairly hectic schedule. But the final outcome, he assures, is well worth the new, busy lifestyle.
“There’s days it’s like I’ve got a party of 100 at the restaurant and meetings and still have to come out in the garden and work in the morning,” Moore said. “And (it’s tough), but, overall, it’s very rewarding, and it’s been a great thing to start. I’m looking forward to next year adding onto it even more.”
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune