World Chefs: Lightner makes splash with cutting-edge cuisine

Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:01pm EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Making it in New York is tough for a young chef, but Matt Lightner managed to replicate the success he achieved at his Castagna restaurant in Portland, Oregon, in the Big Apple with relative ease.

Critics have raved about his cooking for its inspiration from nature and his use of cutting-edge techniques to transform local ingredients, such as freezing foie gras to make it appear like peanuts.

Michelin has awarded two stars to Lightner's Atera restaurant in New York, even though it has been open less than a year.

The 32-year-old native of Norfolk, Nebraska, worked at top European restaurants such as Noma in Denmark and Mugaritz in Spain. He recently spoke to Reuters about his culinary journey and his success with Atera.

Q: Were you surprised about the rapid success of Atera?

A: "(Atera is) a very personal dining experience from things I like and things I had. So you never know when you are doing things that are not typical. When people don't have a reference point to it, it could always go either way. We feel we have been very lucky and fortunate that we have had the support we have been getting."

Q: What do you think is the ingredient to its success?

A: "It always has to be the food first. We are such savvy diners nowadays that ambiance is not enough ... We wanted to make something different, something challenging, but make it approachable, make it delicious and make it with the best products we could possibly find. It's been a formula that's worked out pretty well."   Continued...

U.S. chef Matt Lightner of two Michelin star restaurant Atera in New York City poses in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Courtesy of Atera/Handout