Food Of The Future: Matthew Kenney Transforms Vegan Dining Into A Gourmet Experience

1_Hotel_plnthouse-08-HDRLoResPhoto Credit: Matthew Kenney Cuisine

We’ve all been there: overindulging during the holidays (or the past year in general) and justifying it by the time-old resolution to eat more plants in the new year. But if we’re being honest, giving up the gourmet dishes we hate to love can be a buzzkill—or at least it was until plant-based fine dining became haute.

We sat down with the world’s leading plant-based chef, Matthew Kenney, the mastermind behind 10 vegan restaurants throughout Los Angeles, Miami, New York, London and Bogota, Colombia, among others. The secret to the two-time James Beard Award nominee’s success? Transforming plant-based dining into a gourmet experience served in the chic, sexy environment we previously would have never associated with veganism.

“I have always appreciated not only the flavor and presentation of the food served, but the atmosphere of the restaurant and the overall experience that we can create,” Kenney says. “Our dishes are carefully crafted to not only be healthy, but colorful, beautiful and complex ―in an environment that reflects the same attributes.”

Matthew KenneyPhoto Credit: Matthew Kenney Cuisine

True to form, the vibrant, colorful food found on the menu at his 1 Hotel location, Plnthouse, is served in a gorgeous, white and bamboo dining room mere steps away from the beach. And while the menu is stunning―featuring lunch staples such as carrot ginger kelp noodles and a vegan “Reuben” made with smoked mushroom, mustard seed kraut and sun-dried tomato Russian dressing served on rye―Kenney waves away the idea that all plant-based food materializes in the casual form of a pretty acai bowl or a light lunch eaten poolside. His dishes are just as likely to appear in the high-end restaurant scene pertinent to urban nightlife.

“Our restaurants are designed to reflect the ethos and sensibility of the food served, while still being sexy and sophisticated. We like pushing boundaries and having an edge,” Kenney notes.

This vision is manifested through the illuminated walls of floor-to-ceiling wine shelves and gorgeous open dining space in Kenney’s Italian wine bar in the East Village, Double Zero. The venue has claimed a spot on the Michelin Guide of NYC for the second year in a row thanks to its gourmet pizza, including the balsamic, radicchio and fig pie with caramelized onion, olive tapenade and a smoked almond ricotta that would pass as authentic to even the pickiest cheese connoisseurs. Diners will also find a creamy, cashew-based cacio e pepe on the menu served with crispy black olives and arugula, plus a killer tiramisu complete with cacao, almond and espresso dust that draws the attention of New York’s A-listers on a nightly basis.

Celebrity sightings are also commonplace at his flagship restaurant, Plant Food + Wine in Venice, CA, where stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio munch on the colorful zucchini lasagna layered with macadamia ricotta, basil pesto and sun-dried tomato or a signature dish of kimchi dumplings in the gorgeous garden off L.A.’s glamorous Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

With these types of venues popping up all over the country, even the diners with the most expensive taste will be able to enjoy healthier food without sacrificing flavor or a haute restaurant atmosphere. The only hesitations you’ll have are that the dishes are too pretty to eat.

Acai Bowl Matthew KenneyPhoto Credit: Matthew Kenney Cuisine