The PLANTLAB Vegan Cuisine Acadamies By Matthew Kenney
Matthew Kenney is a gastronomic iconoclast in the Western world of culinary culture where he has made a name for himself by demystifying widely held misconceptions and beliefs about plant-based cuisine lacking in luster or commercial appeal. He is a modern-day classically trained culinary genius turned raw foodie with two James Beard nominations, a growing portfolio of five-star plant-based restaurants located on both coasts, and an aspiration for making plant-based dining the norm instead of the exception. Above all, he is also an educator with an altruistic desire to share his knowledge of plant-based dining with the growing number of individuals seeking to transition to a dietary lifestyle inspired by Mother Nature. Kenney was raised in Maine and moved to New York to attend Law school but his ambitions for a career in the legal field took a radical 180 when he discovered the restaurant scene in the big apple and then decided to enroll at the Frech Culinary Institue in Soho. After a few stints working for some acclaimed restaurants, he soon became a professional chef and later got financial backing to start up his own restaurant on the Upper East side which was called Matthew’s. It was 15 years later when Kenney had his moment of clarity and developed a plant-based lifestyle, “Every day, mostly through yoga, I began to think more and more about how what I’m eating impacts myself and the environment. It got to the point where plants were all I really cared about tasting. Nothing else felt much like food anymore, so I decided to align my personal passion for health and wellness with my culinary passion and experience. I started producing more raw, plant-based food.” Says Kenney about his conversion to veganism.
Kenney is a renowned pioneer when it comes to harnessing the power of plants to create innovating delicious gourmet vegan dishes. Examples of some of his masterpieces include; heirloom tomato and zucchini lasagna with sun-dried tomato marinara, macadamia ricotta and pistachio pesto and pizzas topped with farro fennel sausage, tomatoes, cashew mozzarella and truffle cashew cream. Part of his philosophy in cooking is not using what he calls fake meats such as seitan or tofu but instead getting the most palatable experience out of vegetables. Some of the regular personalities he is accustomed to serving include everybody from off-duty models, high-profile socialites, prickly politicians, competitive athletes, and groovy wannabe hipsters—all of whom flock regularly to Kenney-owned outlets such as a New-York based pizzeria Double Zero and restaurants in L.A., London, Bali, Bahrain, just to name a few spots around the globe.
As if all that weren’t enough, there’s also the Hawaiian or Thai-based wellness retreats he owns, as well as a couple of raw and vegan culinary academies, one which just so happens to be the first state-accredited plant-based culinary school in the world.
The educational institutions known as ‘PlantLab’ were created with the desire to meld plant-based culinary art with ultimate nutrition, emphasizing the use of whole, organic, unprocessed, plant-based foods to achieve healthy, aesthetically refined flavorful cuisine, and also on furthering the inevitable fact that a widespread plant-based revolution is upon us. PlantLab is defined by a strong characteristic ethos of only using the best organic ingredients and offers intimate classes and personalized instruction that really celebrates the ‘essence’ of plants. It’s all about what is natural and clean and finding new ways of creating healthy foods that can appeal to the mass market. The initial Oklahoma charter, which opened up shop in 2009 with just six students and not much financial support quickly grew after a mere year to international acclaim.
As of right now, PlantLab has locations in L.A., Miami, Maine along with a temporary program in New York (also scheduled to become permanent). International locations include Toronto, Cartagena, London, Lisbon, Milan, Berlin, and Barcelona - A new school is also soon to be opened in Stockholm. Just about 1,000 students benefit from the programs each year and now PlantLab is expecting to launch an even more comprehensive online platform that will go on to include a wellness program, shopping, and a Facebook-like network to better enhance the ever-growing vegan loving community.
‘Super Foods’ and ‘Plant-Based Dessert and Pastry’ are some of the niche courses available in the curriculum. Others include 'Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine', 'Professional Raw Applications', or 'Food Future', all of which are taught in custom designed, state-of-the-art classrooms. In addition to the fulltime courses the academy also offers flexible weekend workshops.
Another program on offer that is growing in popularity is the sports nutrition course where students can join professional endurance athlete Brendan Brazier as he divulges all the principles of plant-based nutrition that made him an Ironman and two-time Canadian 50K ultra-marathon champion. The couple week course covers everything from reducing stress and improving sleep to speed recovery, goal-based nutrition timing, superfoods for peak performance, and the mind-body connection. It’s designed not just for sports enthusiasts, but for foodies hoping to experience both a physical and mental boost.
All courses provided in the more than extensive curriculum strive to emphasize that a plant-based lifestyle can truly cover every spectrum offered by an omnivorous diet and have been specifically designed to properly train raw enthusiasts to create foods that can reach anybody at any level. The broad variety of courses all end up employing a modern, creative approach that is based purely on the structured classical building blocks of traditional culinary programs coupled with just a dash more passion and interest in innovation than most.
To this day, the West Coast charters of ‘Plant Lab’ continue to be recognized by Food & Wine magazine as some of the best cooking classes in the world, a testament to expert culinary approaches, unmatched curriculum, outstanding instruction, and the classical and innovative expertise of Kenney himself. For him and his ever-growing wellness empire, it’s always been about spending time “on innovation, just trying to come up with new ideas.” At the end of the day, getting close as possible to the product that comes out of the ground or off the tree is what it’s really all about.
Learn more about the Plant-Based Chef slash Business Guru basically everybody is ranting and raving about here.
Together, let’s ‘craft the future of food.’