6 Questions with Matt Lightner

What inspires you to create?

The seasons. What’s really interesting about our location here in Oregon is that we have so many different types of microclimates and so many different types of micro-seasons. And, really, what inspires me to create is that soulful moment. I try to capture those moments and express them in food.

How has Japanese cuisine impacted your career?

In Japan, centuries and centuries of culture and history are intricately connected with nature, and their products are inspired by it all. They’re able to really express time and place like no other country – I always look towards that for inspiration.

Which ingredient are you most excited about?

For me, it is the seafood. It’s there. It’s like traveling to a different planet, with the quality of seafood in Japan. It’s everything from the texture and the flavors to the fishing practices. You just don’t see that kind of care taken elsewhere.

What makes a Japanese dining experience unique?

You know, there is a real soulfulness to all things that touch the table. The expression of the dining experience is in the ceramics – the aesthetic of the ceramics is the connection between the artist and the chef. That really originates in Japan as well.

Tell us more about your interest in fermentation?

It’s really interesting because of where the culinary world is right now. There is this modern fermentation movement. But it’s based on this very traditional, very classical, almost ancient, technique. It’s always interesting to really trace back these modern interpretations to their origins, and Japan is where a lot of it started.

What is your favorite kind of knife?

A left-handed one!