About CEO Tom Morales
A Tennessee native, Tom Morales is the founder of the TomKats Hospitality. His love for the city and dedication to its continued growth has led to a number of nationally-acclaimed restaurants, including The Southern Steak & Oyster, Acme Feed & Seed, and Southernaire Market.
Growing up in Madison, TN with nine brothers and sisters, Morales learned to cook for a lot of people at young age. His passion for Music City was cemented from childhood when the whole family would pack into his dad's station wagon and drive from Madison to patronize the downtown Nashville businesses. Morales recalls the rounds including a stop at the longtime farm supply store the Acme where their three German Shepherds would get a free flea dip. And if the kids were good, a trip to the Woolworths for a milkshake before heading home.
After attending Auburn University, Morales opened a small barbecue joint in South Carolina where he gained invaluable lessons about food costs. He later moved to Destin, FL, to help a friend open seafood restaurant Harbor Docks, learning the ins and outs of the complex seafood industry.
In 1986, Morales founded TomKats as he recognized a gap in the market for on-location catering for artists and crews that provided healthy food made from scratch. As an early pioneer of the "farm to table" movement, Morales was locally sourcing ingredients and tailoring menus for on-location catering long before the concepts were culinary buzzwords. He began as a concert caterer for Nashville venue Starwood Amphitheatre, which he parlayed into movie set on-location catering. He has catered to the special dietary needs of everyone from Tom Hanks to Sandra Bullock, and his dedication to hospitality leads A-list celebrities, directors and producers to consistently request TomKats catering on-set.
Following whirlwind years of travelling the globe from set to set, Morales turned his attention to his home in Franklin, TN and opened the award-winning Saffire Restaurant, providing a respite for his road-weary crews, a training ground for new chefs and an award-winning culinary experience for locals. In 2003, Morales and a group of partners saved the iconic Loveless Café from being torn down. Morales led the charge in the revamp and rebranding of the restaurant that opened again 2004. The next project took Morales to Nashville’s SoBro District where he opened The Southern Steak & Oyster in 2012 to much critical acclaim. Applying his well-traveled lessons to his next venture, Morales opened the Acme Feed & Seed, a modern iteration of the classic Nashville honkytonk. Together with his partners, Morales rehabbed a 100-year-old iconic Nashville landmark to create a space that honors the past, present and future of the city, a leader in revitalization of the downtown Nashville riverfront. Morales extended the Acme Feed & Seed brand in 2016 with the launch of Acme Radio, an internet radio station providing an unfiltered and authentic voice of Music City, broadcasting live shows and unique programming via AcmeRadioLive.com. Morales continued his investment in downtown by opening the Southernaire Market next door to The Southern in 2015 - a Creole-inspired, artisanal market and deli featuring locally-made sundry goods, a butcher counter, craft brews and freshly made sandwiches and salads – aimed at servicing the downtown resident, worker and visitor alike.
Over the years Morales has been awarded many accolades, including being named on Restaurant Business’s Power 20 List (2016), Nashville Business Journal’s “Power 100” list (2015, 2016 & 2017), nominated for as “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the NEXT Awards (2015), and taking home the District’s “Spirit of the District” award (2014).