Toby Moreno’s Family Ties

A rich culinary heritage inspires Plow & Anchor’s new chef.
Growing up, Toby Moreno hit the mother lode of home-cooked meals. More accurately, it was the grandmother lode. His Grandma Highland hailed from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Biscuits with chipped-beef gravy and fried chicken formed the foundation of her Southern-cooking oeuvre. And then there was his Grandma Moreno, who treated the family to pork-butt tamales after church.

When the young chef started studying culinary arts at Ivy Tech in Bloomington (graduating in 2010 and winding up in the kitchen of James Beard–nominated Restaurant Tallent right out of the gate), he sought to channel that diverse lineage into his work. “I wanted to cook like my grandmas,” Moreno says. His clientele at Plow & Anchor might detect some of that early influence in dishes like kielbasa with cabbage, potatoes, carrots, pork belly, and Sorachi Ace beer mustard—hearty regional flavors that stand out in stark contrast to the daintily luscious repertoire of Moreno’s predecessor, John Adams.

Eventually, Moreno will add touches of his culinary past—like fresh biscuits—to a menu that already includes masterful dishes like walleye with sunchoke latkes and octopus Romesco. He’s even working on perfecting his Grandma Moreno’s tamales, which, he says, would represent a lifetime achievement: “I almost have it.”

Toby Moreno’s Favorite Things

1. Chiles: “In the summertime, I’m always buying them. You really can’t beat an awesome jalapeño right when it starts to get the little brown cracks in it.”

2. Hinkle’s Hamburgers: “By far my favorite hamburger.”

3. Brown County Coffee: “Their house blend is great.”

4. Bloomingfoods: “I stop in there and get their spicy Chinese noodles and an A&W. It’s like your mouth is on fire, and you’re drinking a soda. It doesn’t make sense. But that’s my thing. It’s just so good.”