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An Interview with Chef Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, NC

By mahir | June 7, 2011

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Reusing

This year’s winner of the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast wears not just the hat of chef, but also cookbook author and working mother. Chef Andrea Reusing’s restaurant Lantern opened in 2002, and since she and her brother first opened its doors, the accolades keep coming.

Lantern blends seasonal cooking with Asian flavors. Dishes showcase the best of local produce from Chapel Hill Creamery pork chop to Anson Mills soba noodles.

A little gem a main street in Chapel Hill, Lantern’s incandescent lights glow and beckon diners into it’s warm interior, where food is dished up almost directly from the ground. In it’s Asian-inspired, yet locally-sourced food, Lantern embodies the think global, cook local philosophy.

Reusing’s cookbook, Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes features gorgeous photography and enticing recipes. Reusing shares her cooking philosophy of focusing on one meal at a time through delicious and accessible dishes like Warm Fresh Mozzarella with Grits, Grilled Radicchio, and Balsamic; and Strawberry Ice Cream.

Chef Andrea was gracious enough to answer some questions about cooking, food, and life. Check out her answers below!

What summer ingredients are you getting most excited about this year?
We almost never see local fava beans or artichokes here, and we have both this year so that is really exciting. Also, it has been a big year for bamboo shoots, morels, chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms and ramps.

Looking ahead, it’s been insanely hot for the last few weeks and so tomatoes are going to very early, also I’m making big plans for sweet corn. The corn season here is just a few weeks and so we need to move fast. We are also staring to get sweet tasting blowfish from the Chesapeake Bay, lots of blue crab and big shrimp from North Carolina.

What words would you use to characterize your cooking style?
Spontaneous, ingredient-focused.

Who would you most like to cook for, dead or alive, and what would you cook for them?
All four of my grandparents, Thanksgiving dinner.

What’s your favorite meal to cook?
Anything in the fireplace.

How does your cooking at home differ from your cooking at Lantern?
The food at Lantern generally has a lot of ingredients and at home things are more straightforward. Last night we had a smokey bluefish hash with little potatoes green onions and crispy fried eggs.

Any advice for aspiring cooks?
Don’t be afraid to keep it simple.

Could you name 3 to 5 of your favorite places to eat or shop for food?
Lancaster Central Market, Lancaster, PA
Nishiki Market, Kyoto, Tokyo
Durham Farmer’s Market, Durham, NC

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