Plant Food + Wine
Matthew Kenney Invented Clean Eating
Photos courtesy of Plant Food & Wine | Adrian Mueller
Chef and restaurateur Matthew Kenney opened his latest plant-based eatery, Plant Food + Wine Miami, in February of this year. It has since garnered much praise for its focus on plant-based, vegan and raw cuisine.
A pioneer of what is now often called “clean eating”, Kenney and his restaurant Plant Food & Wine proposes a new way of thinking about food, offering an almost modernist approach to eating and drinking. It is just one part of Kenney’s empire devoted to plant-based eating, which includes several restaurants, a culinary school, a retreat space, research lab and a line of plant-based foods.
Housed in a stunningly tranquil space, the restaurant was created in collaboration with The Sacred Space Miami, a complex for personal growth and transformation that is located in the heart of Wynwood, Designed by contemporary architect Rene Gonzalez, the airy white interiors and open indoor / outdoor floor plan creates the feel of an oasis.
The menu blends innovative techniques with seasonal produce and some of Kenney’s signature dishes. It features a number of locally sourced fruit, some signature “cheeses” actually made from nuts and even a wide list of biodynamic wines.
As a whole, Plant Food & Wine brings together many elements of Kenney’s mission –to offer health and wellness through delicious food in a luxurious environment. Here, we talk to him about his reason for opening in Miami, how Miami integrates with the space and what’s next.
Why Miami? And why now?
I develop projects in places where I love to spend time and where I feel the market supports a healthy lifestyle. I love the warmer climate, sun, ocean and palms. In Miami, there is much knowledge about health and nutrition, but the healthy options were limited, so it’s exciting to be there for our guests and students.
Your space is such an oasis, it’s such a drastic contrast from its surroundings. How did you settle on the location?
This is one of our most beautiful locations. The space is absolutely stunning and a perfect match to the energy, beauty and flavors of the food we try to create. Wynwood has an artistic edge that is compatible with the creativity we apply to food.
How do you feel the culture or food culture has changed in Miami that makes it more welcoming to a raw food concept?
Miami has long been a place where fitness was popular and with the rise of yoga, which is growing tremendously there, there is more awareness about inner health as well. The timing has just worked out perfectly.
Are there are any other restaurants in Miami that you think are also pushing forward the movement for wellness?
We are friends with the JugoFresh team and although not a restaurant per se, we must recognize the work they have done to open the minds of the community toward accepting plant-based options.
The Miami menu has a lot of influences; Asian, Italian, South American. Where did those influences come?
When we develop a menu, we build around each concept's spirit, or energy. In Miami, we wanted a menu that was contemporary, sexy, colorful and vibrant, while having influences from South America, local ingredients and the tastes of the community. It is a melting pot in terms of cuisine and we built a concept to reflect that.
You source many of your ingredients locally, is there anything that you found you could get here that was unique or you really wanted to find a way to use?
We do work locally, as well as seasonally. We've loved working with fresh hearts of palm and local fruits, which we incorporate into many of our savory dishes.
How do you balance serving such artful food with that’s accessible?
We try to employ a maturity to our cuisine, by never doing food that is creative just for the purpose of being different. Instead, we remain grounded in traditional flavor platforms while working with fresher, lighter and unprocessed plant ingredients. We try to bring the best out of each ingredient we work with, by employing innovative techniques, but not getting carried away with odd combinations.
Plant Food & Wine
105 NE 24th St.
Midtown | Miami
What is your favorite menu item?
You recently received 4-stars from the Miami Herald – why do you think it’s taken so long for a vegan or vegetarian restaurant to receive such recognition in a major publication?
There are many reasons for this and we are fortunate to have all the components to generate a 4-star review: cutting edge cuisine, serious hospitality, a great beverage program and a beautiful physical space. In the past, many plant-based restaurants were lacking in one of these areas. Its also taken some time for food critics and writers to take plant-based seriously. We were very fortunate in Miami to be visited by food journalists who were progressive, open minded and fair.
Do you have a landmark moment that occurred in the process of opening here?
We were 3 years behind schedule due to construction and permitting delays, so that moment for me was actually serving our first guest!
in conjunction with the restaurant, you've also opened a culinary school. We read once that your school tends to have a very international array of students, can the same be said for the Miami outpost?
Correct, it is a very diverse group - Matthew Kenney Culinary Academies around the world and online have graduated over 4000 students from more than 40 countries.
For someone who is making the transition to plant-based eating or eating raw, do you have a piece of advice?
Start off with one plant-based or raw meal a day. Finding unique ways to use seasonal vegetables is a great way to explore different flavors
What do you have in the works next?
We have a dozen or more projects in development, including restaurants in California, the Middle East and elsewhere, a new 400-page book I'm really excited about, our pop-up academy in New York city and an education project we're developing for Paris. There is a lot, so I take one day at a time.