Tuesday, August 9, 2022

This chef cooked in Wilmington’s top kitchens, now she wants to cook in yours

After years in the kitchen, Chef Chelsea Moran started to feel the guilt of restaurant cooking–both in terms of health and environmental sustainability. Conscience Cuisine is her attempt to keep what's good about gourmet food while shedding some of the negative baggage

Chef Chelsea Moran puts the finishing touches on the appetizer course; despite the cramped beach-rental kitchen, she had no problem preparing the meal. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)
Chef Chelsea Moran puts the finishing touches on the appetizer course; despite the cramped beach-rental kitchen, she had no problem preparing the meal. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)

WILMINGTON—Chef Chelsea Moran has cooked in some of the top restaurants in Wilmington, but after years of watching some of the industry’s unsustainable practices, she decided to find a better way: a personal chef service that wastes less and offers more.

Moran put in years working for high-end restaurants around the city–including Pinpoint, and several restaurants in the Circa 1922 group–but the industry’s inherent wastefulness was increasingly on her mind. Moran started her own company, Conscience Cuisine, in large part to address those issues.

“Not to badmouth an industry that I have dedicated a couple of decades to, but…I really started thinking about how wasteful traditional restaurant kitchens are, and I mean wasteful in every sense,” Moran said. “From kitchen scraps that end up in a dumpster rather than a compost bin, never-ending wads of plastic wrap that get used briefly and tossed in the trash, water that is pretty much always running, single-use disposables and takeout containers…and please don’t get me started on straws.”

Moran was also acutely familiar with the secret weapon of nearly all restaurants: fat–butter, heavy cream, frying oil, and so on. That is, if the wastefulness of a restaurant meal doesn’t make you feel guilty, chances are the calorie intake will.

“My goal is to deliver the same relaxing decadence you’d expect from a restaurant, without the heavy carbon footprint and poor choices generally associated with a night out,” Moran said.

Chef Chelsea Moran wants to cook in your kitchen, and she's got the logo-stamped car door to prove it. (Port City Daily photo | Chelsea Moran)
Chef Chelsea Moran wants to cook in your kitchen, and she’s got the logo-stamped car door to prove it. (Port City Daily photo | Chelsea Moran)

The idea of Conscience Cuisine, Moran said, is to deliver a guilt-free restaurant experience into people’s homes.

“I extend this same philosophy to my meal preparation services, which are on the same level as an upscale casual restaurant in terms of quality and pricing. It’s really about feeling satisfied on a more profound level,” Moran said. “Plus, just think, you could have a guilt-free restaurant quality meal in your underpants in front of the tube if you want – it’s your house, you make the rules.”

Local rockfish, cauliflower puree, baby broccoli and microgreens. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)
Local rockfish, cauliflower puree, baby broccoli and microgreens. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)

For those wondering if your kitchen is up to professional standards – fear not. Moran brings her own gear, but she’s also become adept at preparing meals in all manner of home kitchens. While catering a recent meal, Moran worked in a cramped beach-rental kitchen with two working electric burners and a half-sized stove. Moran said she had to get creative, but was able to get the food out just the way she wanted it–and on time.

In addition to offering catered dinners, Moran also offers weekly meal preparation, particularly–but not exclusively–for people with special or restricted diets. Moran shops for ingredients, prepares them and stores them in reusable containers for the week ahead, complete with reheating instructions.

Smoked mussels, avocado, orange, and 'magic chili dust.' (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)
Smoked mussels, avocado, orange, and ‘magic chili dust.’ (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)

And, if you find yourself a fan of Moran’s cooking, she also offers cooking lessons, or as she calls them, “cooking parties.”

“It’s a really fun way to learn to cook your favorite dish by hosting cooking parties. It’s kinda like a cocktail party but instead of fancy clothes and mingling, there’s aprons and mixing,” Moran said.

One thing Moran keep from her years in professional kitchens was a love of good ingredients: fresh, local and minimally processed food.

“I am not coming to your house to open cans,” Moran said. “I work with organic produce, humanely raised meats, sustainable seafood and as much local product I can get my mitts on.

“When it comes to local versus organic I defer to the ‘dirty dozen list,’” Moran said, referring to the 12 produce types that test the highest for pesticide contamination. If produce is likely to have a lot of pesticide residue, Moran goes organic–that is, pesticide free; if not, she opts for local.

Local greens, shaved North Carolina Gouda. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)
Local greens, shaved North Carolina Gouda. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)

It’s all part of helping customers balance the joys of restaurant food with cooking that’s better for them, and the environment, Moran said.

“I’m all about helping people make better choices for the environment, but I also like to help them make better choices for themselves,” Moran said. “I’m not saying I’m some kind of a health guru or earth mother, but I make simple swaps like organic sea salt–which I use sparingly– rather than chemically processed kosher salt, cast iron cookware rather than non-stick. I store weekly meals in reusable containers and generally try my best not to generate a lot of trash. I also recycle what I can and any food scraps I bring home to either feed my flock of chickens or compost.”

For more information–including menus and consultations for special dietary needs – visit the Conscience Cuisine website here and check out Chef Chelsea Moran on Facebook.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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