Meeting raw vegan super chef Matthew Kenney was definitely high on Green Queen’s bucket list, so we are more than a little thrilled to be sharing our exclusive interview with this plant-based legend. Matthew has a long and lauded career serving some of the best plant-based food in the world bar none, and in recent years has embarked on a mission to ‘craft the future of food’ as he very eloquently puts it. From his Plant Food + Wine restaurant empire (we had the pleasure of brunching at the Venice original recently, our food pics below), to his ground-breaking vegan NYC pizzeria to his growing stable of Matthew Kenney Culinary academies where anyone can learn the tricks of the plant-based trade to his stunning cookery books (we have them all), Matthew is leading by example, inspiring thousands with his uncompromising approach to food that heals without harming the planet.
Can you tell us more about your slogan #craftingthefutureoffood? What does this phrase mean to you and why did you choose it?
‘Crafting the Future of Food’ is our tagline although it’s also our company mantra. It’s a reminder to us all that the work we’re doing is part of something larger, that it’s part of a mission to change the way the world thinks about its food choices. We are educating ourselves and our students to make sound ingredient choices, to support more sustainable processes and to promote a plant-based lifestyle that is delicious, healthful, innovative and accessible. This is the future of food.
Plant Food & Wine courtyard, Venice California.
Do you believe in a completely meatless/animal-product-free world? Is this a realistic goal? Can humanity achieve this one day?
I believe that people will experience a huge transformation when adopting a plant-based diet. In my case, I found more energy, health, professional focus and overall wellness just from eating plants. If everyone would eat just one plant-based meal a day, that would be a fantastic start, and this small change will have a big impact.
You have just opened your teaching academy in Thailand. What are your future plans for Asia? Is there a possibility of a Hong Kong Plant Food & Wine?
We’re so excited to have just opened Matthew Kenney Culinary in Hua Hin, Thailand. I’ve always loved Thai cuisine and customs and am so excited to reach students in this part of the world. At this time we don’t have plans for a Plant Food + Wine in Asia but it could be a wonderful fit for Hong Kong, to support the growing plant-based movement there. Anything is possible, I would love to work on a project in Hong Kong one day.
Cheese: Almond Ricotta, Smoked Cashew & Macadamia Cheddar Served With Pickles, Mustard Seeds, Fennel Crackers
What are your favorite cuisines in terms of culinary inspiration?
As a chef I like trying cuisine from everywhere, but I have always loved Mediterranean food, and my early restaurants served this cuisine. We incorporate Mediterranean flavors into many of our restaurants today and are working on a new project currently that will be rooted in this culinary influence.
You recently opened the world’s first vegan pizzeria in New York City. Can you tell us more about how that came about? Can pizza be pizza without cheese?
00+Co is fantastic. It may be the best pizza I’ve ever had, plant-based or not), and we’re so excited to have launched this in New York City’s East Village, which is the perfect stage for this. The menu is much more than pizza, but the its definitely the focus. We have a wood burning oven, which makes all the difference in execution when it comes to great pizza. I hope you will visit us to experience 00+Co!
Radish Toast, Soft Macadamia, Herbs, Lemon Oil & Samphire
You are a pretty busy guy and you have a lot on your plate (so to speak!) What keeps you sane on a daily basis? What habits do you follow to ensure you remain healthy?
I go to yoga several times a week and ride my bike around Venice, in LA. I’m taking tennis lessons now, but really my routine is focused on eating well, and I start each day with a green juice.
What are your favorite/comfort foods?
At home I eat very simply. I make a lot of juices, or a salad with avocado and tomato, if they’re in season. My favorite dish is the Plant Food + Wine MK Salad with mixed greens, sprouts, avocado, dulse, hemp seeds, fennel crackers, olives and lemon dressing. I also have a bit of a sweet tooth: a little stone fruit sorbet is the perfect finish (and palette cleanser)!
Polenta Scramble, Wild Mushroom, Sweet Potato Hash
What are some of your favorite vegan restaurants/chefs around the world/around the US?
I’ve always been inspired by Roxanne Klein, who opened one of the first great raw food restaurants, Roxanne’s in Northern California several years ago. I’m also inspired by Chef Scott Winegard who runs our culinary operations, and writes the menus for all our restaurants, as well as by our students. Our students join Matthew Kenney Culinary from around the world and bring their personal and cultural culinary repertoires. It’s incredible to learn so much from those that come to study with us.
Image credits: lead photo courtesy of Matthew Kenney, food photos courtesy of Green Queen.