2015 New York Rising Star Chef Matt Lambert of The Musket Room

2015 New York Rising Star Chef Matt Lambert of The Musket Room
February 2015

The homegrown dreams of a culinary kid tend to get a little dreamier when that kid is Matt Lambert and home just happens to be in New Zealand. Lambert got his start apprenticing with New Zealand Restaurateur Garry Bates at 16, moving on to the Culinary Program at Auckland University of Technology. Opening Sun Seair café with his mother after graduation, Lambert realized that he had a lot to learn about the business—gaps he filled in working with chefs like Michael Meredith at The Grove. It was with Meredith’s encouragement that Lambert came to the United States.

As sous chef at John’s Café in Woodbury, Connecticut, Lambert worked with farmers to create seasonal menus while incorporating flavors of New Zealand. After two years at John’s, Lambert secured a position at New York’s Michelin-starred Public with StarChefs.com 2005 Rising Star Brad Farmerie. Lambert was quickly promoted to sous chef at sister restaurant Double Crown and eventually worked his way up to chef de cuisine of Public and Saxon + Parole.

In partnership with Restaurateur Jennifer Vitagliano and Manager Barbara Lambert, his wife, Lambert opened The Musket Room, bringing together his New Zealand heritage and modern techniques to crystallize those early adolescent dreams. As if those dreams couldn’t get any dreamier, in 2013, just four months after opening, The Musket Room received a Michelin star.

Interview with New York Rising Star Chef Matt Lambert of The Musket Room

Sean Kenniff: What are the roots of your food and cooking?
Matt Lambert:
My upbringing in New Zealand. I grew up growing, picking, baking, preserving, fishing, and smoking (food). All things seasonal we did, whatever way we could make food last longer we did.

SK: What dish do you think best encapsulates your cooking philosophy? 
ML: Manuka [wood] cold-smoked scallops, black garlic, cucumber, Asian pear, and sea beans. It’s one of those things where very simple ingredients combine to make something seem complex. It has great depth of flavor, and in my mind, a great combination of textures. Although I’m not the most athletic guy, my food is often light and refreshing. This dish is both of those things. 

SK: What does cooking honest mean to you?
Treating food with respect, approaching each ingredient with the intent of enhancing its flavor and not adding a bunch of stuff for the sake of it. Not following trends to be fashionable. F$ck fashion. Passion first, always. 

SK: What’s your favorite off the beaten path restaurant?
Hunan Delight [on the Upper East Side], for the fried rice.

SK: What’s your favorite food resource?
Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras, and Eater, Art Culinaire, and StarChefs.

SK: What’s your proudest accomplishment so far in your career? 
ML: I achieved two big personal goals last year: I opened my own restaurant in New York City, which I fully conceptualized and executed. The second and the biggest, really, was getting a Michelin star! It’s something I’d been working my whole career to achieve. I’m most proud of that every day.

SK: What’s your most important kitchen rule?
Always do your best; no one can ask for more than that.

SK: Where you most want to go for culinary travel:
Anywhere, but next is Italy and France!