Matthew Kenney, the chef who crafts the future of food

By Fabiola Gálvez

“The future of food is plant-based” is chef Matthew Kenney’s motto, one of the most outstanding figures of plant-based and raw food cuisine in the world. Practices yoga and follows a vegetable diet. He has written a dozen books, has been honoured as one of America’s best new chefs by Food & Wine Magazine, and has been nominated as a “Rising star chef” by The James Beard Foundation. In 2011, he gave a very inspiring talk at ‘TEDx AmericanRiviera’ and said:

There are two options to feed you: One of them is to follow a processed food diet, and the other one is to eat raw, plant-based food, that is, healthy food. When Chef Matthew refers to raw food, he means fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts, grains.

The challenge, he says, is how to prepare them. The chef develops techniques for raw food such as dehydration, “thermal immersion” (low-temperature cooking), or uses a tool to smoke flavours without cooking food. Don’t cook it because it destroys food enzymes, he says. He also uses fermentation and marination, and many more techniques. Raw food is one of his passions and it’s the type of cuisine he uses most in his dishes.

Chef Matthew has a classical French culinary education, studied at the International Culinary Center. He has worked in the haute cuisine in New York, where he opened highly successful restaurants in the city in the 1990s, such as the memorable “Matthew’s”, which had among its sophisticated clientele even the Queen of Spain herself. But something disrupted his lifestyle and his cooking style, changed his diet and set his mind to make the food of the future, as he says. Since the TEDx talk, 8 years have passed and we see how his message has spread. He’s forty restaurants on four continents: Folia, Plant Cafe, Double Zero, Plant Food + Wine, Make out, Hungry Angelina, Mudra, Althea, Casa Planta, Veg’n Out, Folia, Doppio Zero, Lauderée by MK, New Deli, Avivar, Bar Verde, Sutra, XYST, Humbl Mills Park, Humbl Windermere, Ayre, Marketplace, New Burger, Plant Made, Alibi.

Although during these pandemic times, several of his restaurants have been closed, he has been working to launch an online education platform “Food Future Institute” (FFI) to teach vegan haute cuisine. Now, he is focused on this and on reopening his locals and is very busy, but we have been lucky enough that he made time to answer our questions. So here’s the interview.

 

1. You’re 55 years old, you look really fantastic, you even look younger than you
are. In the book “Raw Food / Real World: 100 Recipes to get the glow” you say that in your first attempt at raw food you felt that you had discovered the “fountain of youth”. What changes did you observe in your body and mind?

The positive changes were immediate – I felt the best I had in years, lighter, more clear
and with a sensation that I was in alignment with how to feel and be my best.

2. Describe to us how a raw food restaurant is. Is it very different from a
conventional restaurant? There are no ovens, no grills, no fryers. Do you really
cook? Can we say “cooking raw food”? We are curious.

The reality is that a raw food restaurant serves the same purpose, which is to take the
best possible care of our guests. However, a raw food restaurant has a certain spirit
which begins with the consciousness of preparing food in its natural state and extends to all facets of the business, which results in a very organic, compassionate environment.

 

3. You are a chef with a background in French cuisine. What happens in that
transition to change the way you eat?

I knew from my first day in a French culinary school that the cuisine I was preparing was not part of my ultimate destination. The techniques were wonderful although I always believed that those techniques needed to be applied in a way that promoted wellness, health, and sustainability. It took me many years to find the path to achieve this.

4. In your presentation at TEDx 2011, you cover an important topic that makes you reflect and you say that there are two options to feed yourself: eating processed food, fast food, candy, soda, which is bringing us diseases and the other option, which is respectful of health and the environment, is plant-based food and raw food. Obviously we will choose to eat better or at least, we will try. Can you give us 5 tips to start eating raw food and plant-based?

Of course.

● Always source the best local, seasonal, organic ingredients.

● Keep the food as close to its natural state as possible.

● Keep it simple at first – a great avocado with sea salt is unbeatable.

● Experiment by preparing at least one more upscale recipe per week.

● Enjoy liquids…Smoothies, juices and lots of water.

 

5. As an entrepreneur and visionary of raw food and plant-based food, you have opened cooking schools and restaurants not only in the United States but in several countries on 4 continents. In Argentina, for example, one of your latest openings, you arrived in a meat-loving country. How are you spreading your message to get this far? It’s amazing.

We have seen the most incredible results when we enter new markets not known for
plant-based cuisine. The fact is, millions of people globally desire fresh, plant-based cuisine. Our mission is to deliver it to them in any form possible.

For more information about Chef Matthew Kenney’s ‘Food Future Institute’, visit:
https://www.foodfutureinstitute.com/