Luna head chef, Joe Morris is as real as a person gets. He believes that “if you live it and you want to do it, go get it. There is no dream that is not achievable.” He started his career as a busser but couldn’t stand having to “act”, he wan’t to be himself and he doesn’t know it any other way. He said he would hate for his mom or dad or uncle to come into his restaurant and see him interacting with people and think “that’s not the Joe I knew”. After knowing Joe for a short while, I have come to know him as one of the most real, genuine people out there. When you meet Joe, you meet the goofy, lighthearted, energetic, hilarious Joe that he is at home and at work. His zest for life is contagious.
Tell me your story
Joe grew up in Orlando, Florida and has fond memories from his childhood, many of which involve food (naturally). He loved spending time with his dad in Baltimore eating Crab, or enjoying fried chicken and collard green with his grandmother in Georgia. He is a big eater. He says, he would hang out with his friends and dinner wouldn’t be ready for an hour, so they would go eat a full meal in preparation for dinner. Joe moved to Spokane during his junior year of high school and graduated from Medical Lake High School. He moved away for a bit and got his first food job as a dishwasher/prep cook in Oregon. Eventually he found his way back to Spokane and worked as a busser at Sawtooth Grill. He says he was the worst busser of all time. He spent most of his time standing around talking to people, and not enough time bussing dishes. He hustled hard in various jobs around town for a while, but he always knew he loved being in the kitchen. It’s a safe place for him. He can walk in a kitchen and be 100% himself. He began his career at Luna many years ago as a dishwasher with hope to move up the ladder. After washing dishes for three months, he started working kitchen prep, then cooking the pizza, then worked the hot line broiling and sautéing, and finally graduated to expo. At this point, he was attending SCC Culinary School as a full time student. Getting his degree from SCC “taught him the skill set, but not the mindset” Morris said. He never wanted to be a cook. He wanted to create experiences. After working expo at Luna, he started doing events. He even worked the Preakness Race in Baltimore for three years and started working catering events on his own. Soon after, he was promoted as a sous chef and two years ago, Joe was offered the head chef position at Luna Restaurant.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
He could be himself in the kitchen. There is no judgement and no desk work. Joe likes to work hard. His ultimate goal wasn’t to be a chef, but to create wonderful things and spread goodness. He likes the pressure of all the people that depend on him to do well. “The better Joe does, the better the entire restaurant does.”
What is your favorite cooking show?
Is there a chef you admire the most? Why?
Joe could not say enough kind words about his sous chef, Deborah. “She is the ying to my yang and I couldn’t have accomplished anything I do without her. She makes me want to be a better person” he said. The way Joe speaks about his loved-ones is so genuine that you can really feel the care he has for people. It’s a really special trait and I think this genuine care and love can be felt by those who eat his food at Luna. He has so much passion and enthusiasm for life, that he can’t help but bring a smile to everyone’s face in his presence.
He also admires Daniel Humm, the chef at Eleven Madison Park (chef/co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad in New York City, the former a recipient of three Michelin stars). Joe follows him on social media, uses his cook book, and loves his approach to cooking and life.
His biggest inspiration, he says, is rapper “Curren$y”. Joe lives by this theme: Jet Life. Essentially, “Jet Life” teaches Joe to enjoy his life and be his best. He tries to not take anything too seriously.
What set of skills or characteristics do you have that you think set you apart?
“I put in the hard work and pursue greatness. You can’t fit a square in a circle. I’m not apologetic. I’m me.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Workout. Play basketball. Hanging out with kids (13 year old son, 7 year old daughter) and family. Florida Gators Football.
Where do you like to eat around Spokane?
Loves asian food and sushi.
Do you have a signature dish?
“They” try to label it as Curry Cauliflower (which I have had and it is incredible) but he loves to do everything and try new recipes. \
What ingredients do you like to work with?
Mushrooms and salt.
What is your favorite thing on the menu at your restaurant?
By the time dish makes it on menu at luna, he’s already moved on to new ingredients and methods. He is always creating and innovating so his favorites are constantly changing.
You’re on death row, what would your last meal be?
Bushel of Maryland Blue Crabs steamed with heavy seasoning and a beer. “And if Grandmas mac & cheese somehow popped up, I wouldn’t be angry.”
If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?
2. Food & Water
3. “Jet Life” materials
What is your favorite cereal? You can tell a lot about a person based on their favorite cereal…
“I haven’t had cereal in years, because I have no self control with it and i’ll eat the whole box”. BUT… his favorites are Cinnamon toast crunch, Cookie Crisp, and Alphabets. “Please don’t put cereal in front of me because I will eat it all.”
Visit Joe at Luna Spokane and see for yourself why I think he is so great.
Luna (5620 S Perry St, Spokane, WA // 509.448.2383)