Commerce's Harold Moore: My Next Restaurant Is Going to Be More Ingredient-Driven
In the nearly six years since Harold Moore opened Commerce (50 Commerce Street, 212-524-2301) on a secluded street in the West Village, he's amassed a cadre of regulars, and his restaurant has become a destination dining spot, even if the address is somewhat hidden.
Commerce via Facebook
And in doing so, he's accomplished his original vision: "The idea of Commerce was to have this place be more than a once-a-year restaurant," he explains. "I wanted interaction. A chef's life is super lonely. It's nice with the customers--they don't cook, or serve, or do this craziness for a living. Not all of them become your best buddies, but some of them do, and I feel very fortunate to have become friends with the regulars."
In the time since he first made his debut, he says he's "gotten better at casual," something that took work given his background: Moore worked at Daniel for the formative part of his career, beginning as an extern and working his way up to sous chef. In between stints in that kitchen, he also worked at Jean Georges--"That was controversial at the time," he recalls. "Daniel was a little angry."--and when he made his final exit from underneath Boulud, he landed at Montrachet and then Marche. It was in that final restaurant, though, that he began to start contemplating striking out on his own. "I had lots of stuff for the scrapbook," he says. "But I realized I needed to do something different. I wanted customers that identified with me. I wanted people more my own age. I wanted to be in a restaurant that I wanted to eat in."
His old boss from Montrachet Tony Zazula fronted him the money, and he was on his way, the culmination of a restaurant journey that almost didn't happen at all. Before his fine dining experience, a teenage Moore worked in "really, really, really bad restaurants in Jersey. That led me to say, 'I'm never working in a restaurant again.'"
It wasn't until he hated his internships with lawyers and stockbrokers during college that he reconsidered, and a mentor pointed him toward the Culinary Institute of America to jumpstart his career.
Seated in his dark den-like dining room, Moore weighed in on the story behind his knife, who he blames for the culture of entitlement in dining, and the restaurants he has coming out next.
Up next, Moore talks about the crazy way he acquired his knife.