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From San Francisco:

Mattin Noblia
Family, Fashion and the Pursuit of One's Passion
by Susan Dyer Reynolds

Chef Mattin Noblia

This 26-year-old Basque native may be San Francisco's youngest restaurateur, but he's had a lifetime of experience. Mattin Noblia started cooking at the age of 5, and, after an apprenticeship with chef Dominique Jolie and other learning opportunities, opened his first restaurant, Iluna Basque, in 2004 at the ripe old age of 23. At Iluna Basque, located in North Beach, Noblia serves up traditional Basque cuisine and features local resources such as crabs, prawns, mussels, tuna and other seafood. Menu items include tapas offerings such as duck rillette empanada and marinated lamb brochettes with rosemary, and "petite entrées" such as rib-eye steak on a bed of roasted garlic and Basque chicken and chorizo sauté. Noblia recently sat down with The Food Paper’s Susan Reynolds for a little heart to heart.

The Food Paper: Who or what was your biggest cooking influence?
Mattin Noblia: My father. I grew up cooking with him from the time I was five years old. My family opened a restaurant when I was seven. The only time my brother wasn’t around was when we were cooking. Now he’s an architect.

TFP: Why did you become a chef?
MN: I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was five. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. At fourteen I went to culinary school, then worked around France with some big chefs for about four years. I wanted to travel, to see the world. My mom grew up with Gerald [Hirigoyen] and he said, “Come to San Francisco—I am opening a new restaurant called Piperade.” So I came to San Francisco and cooked for Gerald there.

TFP: Proudest cooking or restaurant moment?
MN: I am very proud of having my own restaurant. My friends said they wouldn’t have a business for a million dollars—they thought I was too young for all the responsibility, but I don’t think about age. The landlord said that I seemed mature, and he gave me a chance. We opened on February 23, 2004. I was 23.

TFP: Favorite ingredient?
I love asparagus—white, green—I love them.

TFP: Least favorite ingredient?
MN: There is nothing I don't like. Actually, tofu.

TFP: If you weren't a chef, what would you be?
MN: A model [smiles], or a fashion designer.

Iluna Basque
701 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

Susan Dyer Reynolds is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Northside San Francisco.



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