2014 Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Star Sustainability Chef Matt Lackey of Flyte World Dining

2014 Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Star Sustainability Chef Matt Lackey of Flyte World Dining
February 2014

As a child, Matt Lackey spent much of his time at his grandfather’s farm in Castalian Springs, Tennessee, where he soaked up the sensibility and the techniques of a farmer. Later, as a student and aspiring chef, he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where he was immersed in the culture of food and honed his techniques for the professional kitchen. He also earned a degree in culinary management from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Before making his way back to Tennessee, Lackey worked with such revered chefs as Sean Brock, with whom he help developed his famed seed bank. Now in Nashville, Lackey is at the helm of Flyte World Dining and Wine. He works with a myriad of farmers and his own family farm to source as much product as he can from within a short distance of the restaurant. And he splits his time between managing crops, retrofitting tractors, and leading his kitchen team. Beyond his restaurant Lackey is a beacon for sustainability with a vision that includes a fresh-water prawn farm, a cattle operation, hops grown for a microbrewery, and a paperless kitchen—to name a few.


Interview with Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Star Sustainability Chef Matt Lackey of Flyte World Dining and Wine – Nashville, TN

Caroline Hatchett: What is your culinary philosophy?
Matt Lackey: It started as farm-to-table, but it’s changed now that farm-to-table is destroyed. I put my focus into sourcing product, and represent it the simplest way possible—but not something you can do at home.

CH: What are some of the biggest sourcing challenges in Nashville?
ML: If you’re going to buy local and it’s not organic, you’re hurting your costumers. Much of the local produce here is covered with pesticides, and [the pesticides] take time to die. Proper growth standards are important to farming. What are your farmers’ beliefs?  Mennonites are local farming community, and they spray more heavily than anyone else. Seventy-five percent of local, “farm-to-table” restaurants use their produce. They undercut the competition and aren’t concerned about certification. There are also local farms that sprayed for so many years, but somehow have been able to be certified organic. With all the chemicals in the soil, the plants are made up of pesticides.

CH: What the hardest thing you've had to do your career?
ML: Falling in love with farming. It's a pretty fucking shitty life. Waking up in the morning and getting away from chaos is great. It's priceless, but every day … I feel like I'm asleep talking to you. I took care of Sean [Brock’s] seed-saving garden. I took care of interns at the property and seed sowing. I was still in love with cooking, trying to figure out whether I wanted to cook or farm. I’m not happy if I’m only cooking or if I'm only farming. Over the past year, I've met friends, who will let me have my hands in both. I owe so much of my career to Sean. I would never have connected my true passions for both.

CH: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
ML: Pigeons.

CH: Pigeons, seriously?
ML: Yes, I want pigeon. I need to find someone, anyone who has a hatchery. Pigeons fuck like rabbits; you can’t kill them fast enough, but I can’t get them here. It’s a serious pain in my ass. 

CH: What steps are you taking to make your restaurant sustainable?
ML: I buy locally to help with emissions; and we’re cutting down on pollution, having green cars to pick up produce. I’m also converting a tractor [to use less fuel]. I also want to change things that are standard in kitchen, like paper towels. I’ve never worked in a kicthen with Dyson hand dryers. Why not? We’re trying to break that cycle.

CH: What’s your overall vision of sustainability?
I'm working with a farm, close to 110 acres that we want to be able to fully sustainable. I’m working on three or four projects right now. We want to grow fresh water prawns and raise chickens. We’re moving toward a full beef program that would source to other restaurants, but we’re not doing feedlots. They would be grazed and finished on our own grain. We’re working with a professor to grow hard wheat in this area. All out produce, proteins, and water will come from the farm. We’ll make beer; we have a hops project going and want to start a microbrewery.