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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mattin Noblia of 'Top Chef': The SFoodie Interview

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 11:05 AM

The French-born chef isn't without cheesy model shots. - MODELMAYHEM
  • ModelMayhem
  • The French-born chef isn't without cheesy model shots.
An ooh-la-la, red-scarf-wearing dirty blond, 29-year-old Biarritz native Mattin Noblia is the Frenchy eye candy -- complete with model portfolio -- of Top Chef Season Six. He opened his own restaurant, Iluna Basque, in North Beach, at the tender age of 23, featuring the cooking of Southwestern France, replete with Spanish influences. Bonus: His tattoos (irises and butterflies) are among the sweetest we've ever seen -- check out photos 30 and 31 on the Bravo slide show.

With the dumping last week of Preeti Mistry, Noblia is half (with Laurine Wickett) of what's left of Team S.F. See how he fares with the judges on tonight's Top Chef episode, 10 p.m. on Bravo.

SFoodie: Why and how did you become a chef?

Noblia: I always wanted to be a chef since I was 5 years old. Mainly my Dad inspired my cooking while I was growing up.

What's your restaurant history?

We [Iluna Basque] have been open since February 2003. I was 23 years old when I opened it -- it was my dream to open a Basque restaurant to represent my country and culture of the Basque people. We all wear a red scarf to represent the Basque country, and you can now add $2 to your bill in exchange for a red scarf, and the proceeds will go to the charity Pathways for Kids.

Why San Francisco?

San Francisco is probably my favorite city in the U.S. It's probably one of the most European cities, and the weather is great all year round -- when it's not foggy!

What compelled you to be on Top Chef?

I really wanted to give myself the chance to open up to new horizons and projects. Also to bring my chef career to the next level.

Did you become close with any of your Top Chef colleagues?

Yes, of course I have. But you know, Top Chef contestants are spread out all over the United States, so it's harder to keep in touch as much as I wish I could.

Since the show ended, has competing on Top Chef influenced your cooking?

Yes, I've learned a few new tricks, and gotten more confidence as well.

Favorite things to cook? Ingredients? Styles?

I love to cook calamari, foie gras, truffles, duck -- a very French/Basque style of cooking. I use a lot of piment d'Espelette, as my Mom makes it in the Basque country.

Favorite places to eat in San Francisco?

I love Turtle Tower for pho. I go there a lot -- my friend Sonny Nguyen took me there the first time. But also I enjoy 5A5 Steak Lounge and Anchor & Hope.

How did you like living, shopping, and working in Las Vegas?

For me, living in Las Vegas was a first, especially for that long. It was definitely drying out my skin, and there were not many activities besides gambling and partying. Whole Foods in Las Vegas could have had more original proteins to cook with, but of course they have all kinds of good organic stuff. Vegas doesn't have any farmers' markets, and that's a problem for a chef like me. I'll go back to Vegas again to party!

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Meredith Brody


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