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A Moment with Chef Matthew Kenney

Matthew Kenney is the definition of a disruptor.

The plant-based chef and entrepreneur grew up spending time outdoors and sourcing local ingredients in his native Maine. When, as a young man, he discovered a love of refined cooking, he began to consider the intersection of food and wellness.

It was during a trip to California that he noted the absence of vegan fine dining. Thus, his lifestyle brand, Plantlab, was born: Today, he is a leader of the plant-based movement, elevating the space with projects from restaurants to culinary academies to a new wellness arm.

Here, the innovator explains why finding fulfillment in work is key to living your process:

Live The Process: What inspired your passions for food and health?

Matthew Kenney: I grew up in Maine and hunting was a staple of my adolescent years. For as long as I can remember, I’ve also always had an appreciation for nature and a love for wellness. I developed a passion for cooking and fine dining as a young adult. I graduated from the French Culinary Institute as a classically trained chef and worked for years in upscale kitchens in New York City. 

LTP: How did your interest shift to plant-based cuisine? What did you hope to bring to the landscape? 

MK: I wanted to find a way to connect fine dining with wellness because I noticed a real disconnect between the two. Working as a chef at a handful of fine dining restaurants in New York City, I was somewhat turned off by the idea of raw vegan restaurants. A friend dragged me to a vegan place in Los Angeles and I noticed beautiful people with radiant skin, but no real atmosphere and nothing overly impressive about the food. So, I decided I would fill that void. I wanted to create something that would combine the fine dining experience—culinary art, a lovely atmosphere, good wine—with the raw vegan lifestyle.

LTP: Since you became a pioneer in that space and founded Plantlab, you have created many related entities: restaurants, a culinary academy and now a wellness arm. Can you describe your varies ventures? 

MK: Plantlab is a lifestyle brand and encompasses so many facets of the movement toward sustainable health and wellness. It includes our roster of plant-based restaurants such as Plant Food + Wine in both Venice, California and Miami, Florida, Double Zero in NYC, Make Out in Culver City, California, plnthouse at the 1 Hotel in South Beach, Florida and Matthew Kenney NM at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills—with more to come domestically and overseas.

The Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy—a culinary school offering courses that teach the art of plant-based and raw vegan cuisine at the highest level—is an area of our business of which I’m very proud: We have nine global locations in London, Barcelona, Paris, Sydney, LA, NYC and more, an online “campus,” and over 4,000 alumni. We offer intense training (in the form of one- to four-week courses, both in person and online) for people looking for careers as vegan chefs, as well as workshops for “weekend warriors,” who just want to learn more about vegan cuisine and have a fun afternoon. Plantlab also features an Elite Sports Nutrition program designed specifically for vegan athletes and a Chef Placements program that places full-time private chefs with individuals and families. 

Our wellness arm—called “Matthew Kenney Wellness”—has just kicked off this May 2017 with an immersive and transformative week-long retreat program in Kauai. We partnered with yoga and fitness expert, Jacyn Fain, to develop a program focusing on whole body well-being, consisting of group workshops, daily dinner discussions, field trips, culinary demonstrations and hands-on learning, wellness activities such as daily yoga and meditation, and post-retreat support.

Additionally, we’ve partnered with Camp Ame at Turnery Isle Miami to present a weekend retreat this July 7-9, including nutritional education, group fitness, spa services and social events led by health, nutrition, beauty and fitness practitioners. The concept behind all of our Matthew Kenney Wellness initiatives is similar: We want to take the experience one step further than traditional retreats by giving guests the knowledge and tools to easily implement a plant-based lifestyle when they return home. 

LTP: Aside from clean eating, do you have wellness rituals or obsessions that keep you feeling balanced and healthy?

MK: I’m very active. I make a point to squeeze in a workout—or at least something physically active that doesn’t necessarily feel like a workout—every single day. I play tennis, I ride my bike and I practice yoga on a regular basis. I also start my day with a fresh green juice, without fail. It sets my body in the right direction and makes me feel energized. 

LTP: What does happiness look like to you?

MK: TK.

LTP: What does it mean to you to Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?

MK: For me, to “Live The Process” is to be passionate and happy in what you do. If you don’t have a love for the work you’re doing, you may not find it fulfilling. I like to think I “Live The Process” because I not only believe in the vision of our company, I live and breathe it. I find it very gratifying to work toward impacting the way people view food, each and every day.