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  Lifestyle Change Reflected on the Menu

moirLate last month, the historic Grand Canyon Café was sold. Paul Moir, one of the buyers, said he hopes to take the restaurant to its 100th year.

“I’m 48 now, so I’ll be 75 then. I can see that happening,” said Moir. “I think it will be realistic to take it there.

The Grand Canyon Café has been open for more than 70 years. It is a Route 66 landmark. Half of the menu is Chinese food and half is American food. It has been owned for 71 years by the Wong Family. Fred and Tina Wong, who ran it since 1982, wanted to retire. They were looking to sell it to someone who would appreciate its history.

The Moirs (Paul and Laura) and Michael and Alissa Marquess, owners of Mother Road Brewing Company, started talking about its history and significance to Flagstaff.

“We all had the same idea. We were interested in continuing the Grand Canyon Café at its present location,” Moir said. “We decided to partner up, buy it and run it.”

Not much will change other than doing some updating like making the restrooms ADA compliant. The menu will change slightly, but Moir says it will pretty much be the same place it has been for more than seven decades.

The Moirs know a little about running restaurants. They own three in Flagstaff: Brix, Criollo Latin Kitchen and Proper Meats and Provisions.

They opened Brix in 2006, which focuses on local, sustainable food-based business.

“It is a growing movement and has been for a number of years,” said Moir. “I am a reformed junk food addict. After I met my wife, we had been working in restaurants for a few years and learned about food. The more we went down that worm hole, the scarier it got. By the time we opened the restaurant, we were believers in a sustainable way of eating and that is what we want to put forth. It is how we feed ourselves and our kids.”

Still, there was a time when he and his wife quit the restaurant business. “We both swore off it. We got ‘real’ jobs.”

He took a position in telecommunications and she in information storage. “We became cube dwellers,” he said with a laugh.

They quickly realized they did not like that life. “I quit first and went to culinary school. She went back to bartending. She stayed for another two years while I finished up and then she went into wine sales. Within a year, we were heading back to Arizona to open up a restaurant.”

They wanted to start a family and be close to family. “It’s funny. When we started, my general plan was to move to a small town, open a small restaurant and raise kids,” he said. “Now we have two kids and we have not determined what the end game is. I love the restaurant business, the energy and chaos. My wife and I thrive in that environment.”

Moir says he tries to keep the food used in the restaurants limited to what Arizona farmers produce locally. “Most are produced between Flagstaff and Phoenix, and because the growing seasons are year round because of the elevation, it’s not a hard thing to do.”

Moir works directly with Arizona ranchers. The restaurants offer seafood, too, which is shipped in fresh. They also offer exotic meat like antelope, wild boar and buffalo.

Criollo opened in December 2009, and Proper Meats and Provisions in 2014.

“One thing we liked to do with the restaurants is give back to the community where we operate,” he said. “We are active in the community in the non-profit part of that. We aid in fundraising events with the different organizations. Over the years we have partnered each of the restaurants with different organizations. We support the community that supports us and the community we live in.”

 

Who inspired you to choose your line of work?

“My Mom. She was a tremendous cook when I was growing up. She got me interested in food and cooking from a young age. She would tell me to go out and rototill the garden and build a retaining wall. I would say I don’t know how to do that and she would say, ‘go figure it out.’ She gave me the willingness to just get in and figure it out.”

 

What is your favorite time of day and why?

“I tend to wake up pretty early and I think that is my favorite time of the day. Anywhere between 4:30 and 5, have a cup of coffee before the kids get up and and the phone starts ringing.”

 

What do you do in your spare time?

“I try to enjoy the outside where we live and mountain bike and snow board.”

 

Where to you like to travel?

“My wife and I go to Portland every year, but we’ve been busy opening restaurants and raising kids, we have not had the time to travel. We want to start traveling with our daughters and expose them to the world.”

 

When was the last time you laughed really hard?

“Probably it was over something my kids said. They are six and 10 and they are pretty funny right now. What comes out of their mouths blows me away sometimes.” FBN

By Patty McCormac, FBN

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