Growing up among eight siblings in Nicaragua, Chef Vernon Morales often found himself spending the most time in the kitchen. While observing his mom’s cooking he occasionally helped her out, but his mom mostly remembers him making a mess. Nevertheless, Morales was inspired, and today, his dishes reflect his extensive training and culinary passion.
When Morales was young, he and his family moved to the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. While attending the University of Minnesota, Morales found himself unsure of his life’s direction, so he decided to stick with what he loved and knew best - cooking. Soon after, Morales left Minnesota and headed west to enroll in San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy.
After graduating, Morales went on to work at the celebrated Restaurant Daniel in New York City. Two years later, Morales traveled overseas to Gerona, Spain. As chef de partie at Ferrán Adria’s world-renowned El Bulli, Morales took this highly-coveted opportunity seriously. Taking in as much as he could, Morales left with enough solid knowledge to earn him the title of sous chef at Restaurant Daniel on his return six months later. A year and a half later, Spain called him back yet again. This time Morales lived in Lasarte, Spain and worked with another world-famous chef, Martín Berastategui, at his famed eponymous restaurant.
When Morales finally left Spain, he again arrived in New York to work at the Peacock Alley restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It was here that Morales met his mentor, Laurent Gras, whom he credits teaching him about culinary precision. Sadly, Peacock Alley closed shortly after September 11th, and after working in the kitchens of the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park for a year, it was time for Morales to move on.
The need for a change and perfect timing led Morales to Philadelphia, where he took on the executive chef position at Salt, a small, personal restaurant. There Morales was in an ideal environment to create and execute his cuisine, built on years of significant culinary training, and earned him a 200r StarChefs.com Risings Stars Award. After a year and a half, he headed back West to open Winterland Restaurant in San Fransisco. Frequent guest Mitchell Rosenthall, and Town Hall owner, became a friend, and eventually persuaded Morales to join his team in 2009.