Matthew Kenney | Riding the Storm Requires Rations, So Why Not Ration For The Super Future

Via Issue 184, The Tempest Issue

Written by

Maddie Dinowitz

Photographed by

Suede Williams

Styled by

Soaree Cohen

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It’s not unusual to hear of success stories going against the winds of the status quo—and yet, defiance with longevity is exceedingly rare. In French culinary school, most classically-trained chefs discover exactly what they want to do with food. Contrarily, Matthew Kenney—who, for over two decades, has led a global explosion of plant-based cuisine concepts from Venice Beach to Bahrain—learned exactly what he didn’t. Turned off by the tradition’s dependence on butter, salt, and fat, Kenney felt at a crossroads between his personal values and what he was trained to do. Impassioned by the booming health and wellness movement of the 1990s, and a desire to do things differently, Kenney helped pioneer a culinary movement that has been amassing global momentum ever since. 

In his hometown of coastal Maine, Kenney fell in love with the apple cider and natural honey sourced from his family’s farms. Here is where the chef found a deep connection between the earth and its flavors. “I developed a real sense of quality ingredients,” Kenney says. “I was always very attuned to sourcing the best product possible. And that was just something inherent in the way I was brought up.”


In culinary school, most aspiring chefs saw veganism as a roadblock—Kenney saw it as an opportunity. “I would never have done this if I didn’t think it was the most exciting cuisine and the future food,” he explains from his home in Los Angeles. “I felt like, ‘Wow, there’s a whole new frontier out here.’ It’s so much more interesting than simply buying chicken breasts. We can create a whole new cuisine that doesn’t exist.” 

The world of Kenney—now an author, educator, and entrepreneur—has only grown, resulting in a network of restaurant concepts and workshops across the globe. From Los Angeles to Buenos Aires to Sydney, Kenney has transformed his vision into something greater—and that the movement has deep cultural significance is not lost him. “You start to see the world with more clarity,” he explains, “and understanding how things work and cultural influences on cuisine. It just gave me such a great viewpoint on the world.” 


Today, Kenney has opened over thirty establishments that seek to alter people’s views on conscious eating. Whether it be a food hall with several vegan vendors, a plant-based pub for college students, or a high-end restaurant that challenges beef consumption in Brazil, each concept has its own unique spin on it. 

“The restaurant business in and of itself is a storm,” he tells me. But the chef doesn’t just brave the storm—he rides it, and effortlessly at that. Amidst the pandemic, the innovator originated new opportunities to keep both his staff and his mission to encourage plant-based diets afloat. Kenney auspiciously expanded his network, creating Food Future Institute, a culinary educational experience with thousands of students online. Beyond culinary and business training for chefs, the program seeks to educate those on food science and the importance of sustainability. “Education is one of the most critical aspects,” Kenney remarks, “because as one company, we can only do so much. But the reality is, we really need to create an army of people who can make plant-based food delicious, appealing, and fashionable.”

Matthew Kenney has revolutionized ethical food consumption through dynamic strategies that extend far beyond the four walls of a restaurant. When you sit down at one of Kenney’s establishments, you’ll recognize that veganism is far from just vegetables on a plate. For Kenney, food is far more than sustenance. Food is the power of creative imagination, food is a way to see the world, and most importantly, food can rewrite the landscape of the future. 

PAUL SMITH shirt and pants and VACHERON CONSTANTIN watch. 

Photographed by Suede Williams

Styled by Soaree Cohen

Written by Maddie Dinowitz

Groomer: Daphne Chantell at Exclusive Artists

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Matthew Kenney