Matt Lightner named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” for 2010
Castagna has been getting rave reviews since Matt joined the restaurant in 2009. Under his leadership, many dishes have been added to the menu that flirt with new concepts for the Portland restaurants.
Lightner worked his way through the Heathman Restaurant & Bar, Portland, Oregon; L’Auberge Del Mar, Del Mar, California; Mugaritz, Errenteria, Spain; and Noma, in Copenhagen. Castagna is his first position as an executive chef. In early 2010 he was a semi-finalist in the “Rising Star Chef” category by the James Beard Foundation.
Restaurant Hospitality magazine named him “One of Ten to Watch in 2010” –
Lightner, fresh from an extensive immersion in Spanish cuisine and culture — touring Andalucian olive presses, Iberian pig farms and Basque cheese caves; working at Mugaritz for 18 months; and learning at the feet of Ferran Adria and other masters — took the helm at Castagna a few months ago with the express understanding that he would continue to follow the locavore philosophy. His plan is to up the ante a little, taking all that Pacific Northwest bounty and making it even more interesting with the tecnhniques he’s picked up working in Europe and the U.S. West Coast.
“Working at one of the best restaurants in the world has elevated my connection to food and (taught me) how to celebrate one single ingredient to allow for its true flavor to emerge,” he added.
This Best New Chef award has been given to three other Portland chefs: Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen in 2004, Gabe Rucker of Le Pigeon in 2007, and Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in 2009.
According to Castagna owner Monique Siu “When I was searching for a new executive chef, Matt stood apart from the other chefs and I had to seriously think about giving him the creative room he needed to succeed. The reaction was positive from the beginning and I am excited he will be recognized for his talent and innovative use of ingredients.”
If you haven’t been to Castagna recently, you’d better get in while you still can.
garden girl says
Although I have always loved Castagna and enjoyed marvelous dinners prepared by its previous two chefs, Matt brings such fresh vitality and creativity to its menu. For a young chef to receive several significant honors with only 6 months as head chef is rare and worthy of all our attention. Matt has taken the interest in fresh, local ingredients to a whole new level. The menu at Castagna and the execution of the dishes cannot be compared to any other Portland restaurant. It’s that different and that good. Kudos to Monique for having the courage to go in a new direction just as the challenging economy was whispering “Play it safe” in her ear. Now I know it’s going to be difficult to get a table….
I totally agree with Garden girl’s comments. Couldn’t have said it better. Congratulations to Matt Lightner and lucky us for having him and his restaurant in Portland.
Congrats to Matt. It should be mentioned he is a Western Culinary graduate.
I couldn’t be happier for Matt and Monique. Matt’s cooking is indeed extraordinary, and Portland is so lucky to have him here creating these wonderful new interpretations of the great ingredients the area grows. And Monique….well, I think she’s the most underappreciated restaurant owners this city has ever seen. People forget that she was one of the forces behind Zefiro, which first transformed Portland dining. Then she opened Castagna on the EAST side on a non-descript part of Hawthorne in 1999.
And now, as someone else said earlier, with the worst economy in 80 years she has the courage and vision to hire a young, supremely talented and creative chef instead of going to a cheap eats/comfort food format.
It’s incredible and inspiring, as is the food and service. I can’t wait to eat there again.