Yes, Vegan Food Can Be Delicious—These California Chefs Prove It
Vegan fare is sometimes stereotyped as being bland and unexciting—how can one possibly create three delicious meals a day free of ingredients like dairy, butter, and eggs? Well, American chef Matthew Kenney has done just that. The founder of his own culinary academy and author of 12 cookbooks, he created Matthew Kenney Cuisine in 2009, an integrated lifestyle company focused on educating others about a high-quality plant-based diet and innovative cooking techniques. Kenney owns and operates multiple veggie-centric eateries in the U.S., including the Venice, Calif.-based Plant Food + Wine, which is helmed by chef and director of culinary operations Scott Winegard.
Kenney and Winegard have been hard at work crafting the perfect menu for South Beach Food and Wine Festival’s Vegan Dinner, hosted by Kenney and celebrated nose-to-tail chef Jamie Bissonnette. We spoke with the Plant Food + Wine duo about cooking with veggies and teaming up with notorious meat-enthusiast Bissonnette. (If you’re feeling inspired, try whipping up Kenney’s incredibly flavorful and healthy Cider Braised Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Seeds [above] with the recipe below.)
What are some vegan food stereotypes you hope to break with your cooking?
Kenney: We hope to establish plant-based cuisine as the most enjoyable form of eating, because vegetables are so diverse and colorful and healthy at the same time. The stereotype has been that vegan food is boring, bland, or brown, so we go for complex texture, taste, and to make people feel good.
What's one ingredient you can't cook without?
Kenney: A really great olive oil, like the one from Adam’s Olive Ranch [available at farmers' markets in California]. We use a lot of nut oils too, like walnut and pistachio.
Have you always practiced plant-based cooking and eating?
Winegard: We all come from traditional cooking backgrounds. Many members of our team in [the Matthew Kenney Cuisine] education and hospitality division are classically trained, but have come to realize that plant-based [cuisine] is really the future.
How did you decide to work with Jamie Bissonnette, a meat enthusiast?
Winegard: I knew Jamie from the punk rock music world, and we both connected when we realized we were chefs. He jumped at the chance to help with this dinner. It’s great to have a chef who is known for [cooking with meat], but is so excited about an event like this.
So what’s on the menu?
Winegard: We’re trying to focus on the flavors of Miami and what we think people will like, and we’re using locally inspired ingredients, like hearts of palm. We’re doing a take on a Cuban sandwich, but using yam instead of ham. Dessert will be very tropical, as well.
Join the chefs on Saturday, Feb. 27 at the "Future of Food Dinner" event happening at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami (tickets are $200; sobefest.com), or try a taste of their philosophy for yourself with the recipe below.
Cider Braised Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Seeds
1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/8 tsp red chili flakes
Salt, as needed, to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add Brussels sprouts. Blanch for about 3 minutes, until tender but firm
2. Drain and run cold water over the sprouts.
3. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and add chili flakes and Brussels sprouts, face down. Sauté for 5 minutes.
4. Add cider and stock to the skillet and turn heat to high, stirring constantly, until it is reduced in volume by half, making a sauce.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.