Meet Shamus Moriarty

This twentysomething pastry chef is sweetening up the menu at Rex 1516

Photo by Courtney Apple

When did you first become interested in baking?

I have always had a strong connection to pastry. My closest friend growing up went to the Culinary Institute of America in New York around the time I got my first bakery job back in 2006. We would bake cakes when we found any excuse to in middle school and high school, and that tradition still stands every time I go back home to see her. So basically forever.

How did you hone your skills?

I did sculpture growing up. And my foot in the door for this industry was that I did some fondant work, which is really just edible sculpture.

What’s your signature item in the kitchen these days?

I’m in love with the Sweet Potato Duo on our menu, but it seems our most popular dessert is our gluten-free King’s Gateau, a chocolate, peanut butter and banana dessert. I’m also baking all of the breads that come out of Rex. I’ve got five desserts and seven styles of bread going on any given day.

What’s it been like as an out gay man in the kitchen?

I have been on the outskirts of boys’ clubs in kitchens before, but we don’t have any of that at Rex. It’s 2012, and my sexuality isn’t an issue to the other men on the line. I would say if you are a gay man trying to make it in this industry, just be yourself. If you’re a bit cheeky, run with it. If they’re vulgar toward you, be twice as vulgar back. Find common ground and explore it. If they play fantasy football, talk about your fantasy RuPaul’s Drag Race team. There’s lots of brotherly love to be found in this city. Being different is an asset. You get to change people’s opinions daily just by being you.

Where do you shop for your own sweets in Philly?

Belle Cakery down on Passyunk. Not only is it in my neighborhood, but Jessie Prawlucki from Fond is one of Philadelphia’s most talented pastry chefs. Her sweets are killer.

How do you kick back after working the oven?

The best part about working early hours is by the time happy hour rolls around, I am at home ready to look proper and go out. You can find me regularly at American Sardine Bar filling up a Philadelphia Brewing Company growler for $8.

Where do you find your inspiration these days?

Currently, because I work at a Southern restaurant, I’ve been indulging in some very old Southern cookbooks. Also, I have been watching repeats of Designing Women to see what those ladies like to eat.

Something people may be surprised to find out about you?

I almost always faintly smell like sourdough starter. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to other people.

Guiltiest pleasure of all?

Red meat. I have read all of Michael Pollan’s books ad nauseam, but I still can’t take red meat out of my diet. My hamburger and steak addiction is something I will probably battle for the rest of my life.

Rex 1516, 1516 South Street, 267-319-1366.