By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BIG SKY – Lone Mountain Ranch is at it again, showcasing its staff’s culinary acumen. LMR’s Executive Chef Nick Steen was recently named one of the top 10 chefs in the Northwest by online juggernaut “The Culture Trip,” a website that explores food, culture, art and travel in every country in the world.

The site referenced Steen’s quality meat choices and ability to present delectable dishes to larger crowds. “His laid-back personality shines through his craft, with unassuming food that marries quality with carefully considered flavours,” the site says.

“It’s a bit surreal, to be honest,” Steen said. “I still don’t believe it. Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet.”

What has sunk in since August 2013, when Steen accepted the position as LMR’s head chef, is the creative approach he takes with a menu. When he hosts wine and food pairings, Steen lets the featured vineyard take much of the credit, and builds his cuisine around the specific vintage.

“I let the wine be the guide,” he says. “It’s easier to let the wine shine and pair the food with it.”

For the final course of a wine and food pairing at the ranch last August, Steen poured liquid nitrogen over apricots and added microgreens, goat cheese and raspberries, then served it with a 2012 riesling from David Arthur Vineyards, based in Napa Valley, Calif.

This winter, Steen is bringing his affinity for freeze-treated foods back. LMR’s winter menu will featureLMR_Steen_Donnie_Sexton a gnocchi dish combining egg yolks treated with his liquid nitrogen, and include bleu cheese, brown butter and Benton’s ham from Tennessee, which Steen says is “arguably the best ham you’ll ever eat in your life.”

Another winter feature is Steen’s spin on the classic chicken and dumplings dish. This completely Montana-sourced meal features buttermilk dumplings in chicken broth with baby carrots and fried onions.

LMR hosts a wine dinner on Saturday, Dec. 13, featuring Paso Robles, Calif.-based JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery, but if you miss this one, Steen says he’s offering another on Valentine’s Day with Brooks Winery from Amity, Ore. These dinners are one of Steen’s specialties and a reason he was named among the Northwest’s top 10 chefs. But his achievements result from more than his own quest for the perfect dish.

“It’s definitely a team effort up here,” Steen says. “I couldn’t do this without my wife, Ashley, and [chefs] Josh Cannon and George Peirce. They’ve been the driving force at Lone Mountain Ranch.”