Although Keira Moritz was originally headed for a career in criminal justice, her passion for cooking led her on a different path. A Georgia native, Moritz first attended Valdosta State University before fully realizing her talents in the kitchen while attending an event where the chef failed to show up. Moritz filled in to feed 150 guests and knew she had stumbled upon a career. She went on to attain her culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina, and then her foodservice management degree from the university’s campus in Denver, Colorado.
After finishing culinary school, Moritz remained in Denver to work alongside Chef Elise Wiggins at Panzano Restaurant where her admiration of Italian cuisine grew. During Moritz’s time as executive sous chef at Panzano, the restaurant received the 2005 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and was named one of the top five restaurants by the Rocky Mountain News.
Moritz continued a career with Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant, which led her to many different concepts with in their company spending time at restaurants based in Denver, Aspen, Portland, San Francisco and Atlanta, Georgia where she opened and led the team at Pacci Restaurant.
At Pacci Ristorante, Moritz’s passions fell in supporting local farms and artisan producers and providing the best meats and seafood and seasonal produce at the peak of their quality. Her menu featured seasonal, Northern Italian cuisine alongside traditional steakhouse classics with a southern flair drawn from her native roots. Moritz and Pacci were recognized in Esquire magazine as one of the “Best New Restaurants of 2009.”
Moritz’s culinary talents also garnered several other accolades in Pacci’s first year of business, including The Sunday Paper’s recognition as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in Atlanta for 2009 and the award for Best Table Display at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Chocolate! 2009 event. 2011, Atlanta’s ten best dishes, Atlanta Guidebook.
All of Pacci’s accolades and the southern flair she featured there led Moritz steadily back to her southern roots and In 2011 Moritz purchased and renovated what she had been working towards for the last decade of her culinary career, her own independent restaurant.
Steel Magnolias opened after six long anticipated months of renovation of an historic building built in 1891 in downtown Valdosta Georgia. Steel Magnolias brings an fresh air to the Valdosta dining scene, with its three levels, including a roof top terrace featuring the historical elements of the building and combining that with and eclectic mix in design that carries over in to the menu itself.
Here at Steel Magnolias Moritz has continued with her involvement with local farms and artisanal producers to take southern cuisine to a new level. In Steel Magnolias first year of business it has been nominated for best new restaurant/special occasion restaurant and best live music venue by the Valdosta Daily Times and Small business of the year and Moritz young professional of the year by the Chamber of Commerce. Nods have been given to the growth and involvement of Steel Magnolias in articles such as Valdosta CEO, Southwest Georgia Living Magazine, The Tifton Scene, The Tifton Gazette, the Valdosta Scene and Georgia Trend Magazine “Valdosta Valhalla” article. Steel Magnolias was also honored with the Silver Spoon award in November 2014, and 2015 by Georgia Trend naming it as one of the top ten restaurants in Georgia.
After 5 years in Business in downtown Valdosta Moritz purchased a second property or shell of a property consisting of 7900 square feet of 4 brick walls and a fully collapsed roof.
After 2 years of renovations emerged a second business of Moritz’s commitment to her developing downtown, named Birdies Market & Catering. Opened in June of 2016 the market is embarking in its first year of business.
Birdies Market & Catering combines its self with Grassroots Coffee a Thomasville based coffee roaster and serves breakfast and lunch fare with wines and craft beer and featuring an array of cheeses and specialty Georgia grown products coupled with culinary-home goods in its market atmosphere.