Truly great fried food should engage different senses. Just ask Ronnie “Mo” Moore.

“When you’re cooking, it’s about timing, but it’s also something you feel,” said Moore, the longtime fry cook at Ye Olde College Inn. “When you're eating it, you want to see the right color, you taste the right crunch.”

Last week, Moore’s particular way around the fryer also engaged a sense of gratitude.

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Ronnie "Mo" Moore is known for his great skill as a fry cook and long career at Ye Olde College Inn. He was honored with a Louisiana Restaurant Legend Award from the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

The staff and owners of Ye Olde College Inn and leaders with the Louisiana Restaurant Association gathered just as the late afternoon dinner service was starting here to surprise Moore with a special honor.

Moore was presented with a Louisiana Restaurant Legends Award, part of a program from the LRA recognizing key staff who have worked for 20 or more years at the same restaurant.

John Blancher, proprietor of Ye Olde College Inn, was unabashed in his praise for Moore.

“He’s the greatest fry cook on the planet,” he said.

Certainly, Moore’s role is foundational at Ye Olde College Inn. While fried food may get a bad rap in some circles, connoisseurs of New Orleans cooking know a skilled fry cook is invaluable to giving many local dishes their due.

Stan Harris, president and CEO of the LRA, said he tasted Moore’s craft first hand recently and was deeply impressed.

“It was a soft shell crab, and it was the single best fried food item I’d ever had,” said Harris, a former restaurateur himself who has a well-traveled palate.

Moore’s coworkers share the admiration. Moore is known as a leader in the kitchen, they say, and his work ethic is legend. When he’s off, it takes three people to fill his shoes.

Moore, 53, grew up just a few blocks from the restaurant in Hollygrove, where he still lives. He started at Ye Olde College Inn back in 1990. He was 24, and the restaurant was much different.

Dating to 1933, Ye Olde College Inn had a few incarnations through the generations (and different names – it was once simply College Inn, but “Ye Olde” was added to avoid confusion with Bruno’s College Inn, now known as Bruno’s Tavern, on Maple Street).

By the time Moore started here, it was an old school fixture, drab and dowdy but beloved by its regulars, serving a mix of plate lunches and Creole standards.

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Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - Onion rings are an essential dish at Ye Olde College Inn.

The Blancher family bought the restaurant in 2003. Two years later, it was badly flooded after Hurricane Katrina. But it returned in 2006 in a different location just next door, and when it did Moore was back on the job.

Vibrant and busy now, Ye Olde College Inn has also evolved its menu greatly since the old days. A garden next door supplies some of the produce and you can get roasted duck or grilled redfish with tomato vinaigrette.

But many of the staples still start at Moore’s station – the fried shrimp for po-boys, the fried oyster appetizer (even if it’s now finished with blue cheese oil), and especially the onion ring stacks that nearly every table seems to order.

To Moore, no matter how busy it gets, the recipe for consistency comes down to a mix of focus, experience and intuition.

“The timing, the color, it’s going to be different for oysters or shrimp or onion rings,” Moore said. “You just got to know.”

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.