For some chefs, “heirloom variety” and “farm fresh” are buzzwords reflective of today’s trends in food. For Chef Matthew Lackey, they are simply his heritage. Growing up in Castalian Springs, Tennessee, he spent his days helping on his grandfather’s farm. From feeding cattle to laying out garden beds, Matt’s earliest memories are of the most basic beginnings of food. In the evenings he settled comfortably into Cricket’s Diner, watching his grandmother cook and absorbing the social community that inevitably forms anywhere food is served. “Watching the faces of all those people, hearing their stories, that’s how I knew I’d found mine,” Matt reminisces fondly.
Straight out of high school, Chef Matt spent a year working as a line cook at a nearby country club. This experience led him to enroll at the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Even after completing this challenging program, he still wanted to learn more, so he headed to Scottsdale, Arizona, home of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Management. Matt stuck around Scottsdale to work at True Food Kitchen, a Fox Concepts restaurant with a focus on healthy, locally sourced food. There he explored creating delicious menus while working within vegetarian and Celiac dietary structures.
Ready for his next challenge, Matt headed across the country to take an unpaid internship at McCrady's in Charleston, SC. “There is no chef in the world I would rather work for than Sean Brock,” Lackey says. Matt helped Sean develop his renowned seed bank farm, with a goal of reintroducing heirloom varietals of nearly-extinct seeds. After his three month internship, Matt worked full-time as a McCrady’s line cook for a year, until Sean approached him about coming over to his newest creation, the wildly successful Husk. At Husk, Lackey says, “I never would have dreamed of being able to learn so much about farming and the importance of local and organic food. I fell more in love with food, not just with cooking, than I could even comprehend.”
Matt left Charleston in November of 2011 to work with the Flyte crew. “He quickly showed a passion not seen here before,” says Flyte co-owner Scott Atkinson. Co-owner Scott Sears affirms, “Matt has breathed new life into our menus and new energy into our restaurant. Both the staff and our loyal customers are delighted to have him aboard." Since joining Flyte as executive chef, Matt’s talent has been noticed by Food & Wine magazine, who named him among the nominees for The People’s Best New Chef. Matt’s menus are highlighted by modern techniques but focus mainly on showcasing the wealth of world-class local products available in Middle Tennessee. Chef Lackey is thrilled to be sharing all the authenticity of his home state with enthusiastic diners from Nashville and beyond.