Defining Our Regional Cuisine: Chef Nate at the Lakely
Set to open this summer, The Lakely, inside The Oxbow Hotel, will feature a locally sourced menu crafted from the kitchen of Chef Nate Berg. The restaurant will serve what Berg calls “Midwest modern comfort foods.”
I started washing dishes at age seventeen and have worked my way up the ladder through the restaurant business over the course of the past twenty-three years. I did an internship at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin, back in 2003; an intense immersion into local food systems where I had to source 80 percent of my ingredients from within a 50-mile radius of our facilities. I’ve worked at Harvest Restaurant on the Capitol Square in Madison. I owned Native Bay Restaurant in Chippewa Falls from 2005–2008 and have since worked at The Creamery and as an independent chef, doing special/private events. In 2006, I was nominated by Slow Food International as an ambassador to their Terra Madre event in Turin, Italy, as one of only one hundred chefs from the United States, specifically for my work with sustainable agriculture and regional cuisine.
My overall culinary goal for the next five years is the same as it is for the remainder of my life: to help foster the development of a distinct style of cuisine to represent the Upper Midwest/Western Great Lakes region. This includes boosting the use (and overall production) of ingredients that are native to this area, but also to cherry-pick (pun somewhat intended) ingredients, dishes, and techniques from all of the various native and non-native cultures that inhabit this region. And if all that doesn’t work out, I’ll probably start a punk rock band or something.
I’ve really enjoyed the Eat Local Challenge dinners in the past because it’s such a great way to showcase local farmers and producers, giving diners the ability to hear their stories first-hand and really cementing the connection to the local food system. But this year, I’m far more excited because of this sudden influx of talent from all of these other new chefs who are having the opportunity to head up bold new restaurants in the Chippewa Valley that heavily feature local ingredients. The excitement is palpable for all of us to be able to work together toward the common goals of making incredible food for local diners while simultaneously helping to financially support our local farmers and other food producers. I’m getting a good feeling that this is just the beginning of the Chippewa Valley’s ascent into a true culinary destination.
Photo Credit: Font Diner