Matthew Kenney Brings Plant-Based Cuisine to Neiman Marcus
The luxury retailer goes vegan—and Angelenos rejoice.
James Beard nominated Chef Matthew Kenney has been dubbed “the healthiest chef on the planet.” His plant-based Matthew Kenney Culinary Academies in Venice (California), Miami, Belfast (Maine), Mallorca, London, Paris, Barcelona, and Sydney are bringing the future of food to the forefront of education. The star chef has also created a range of vegan products (including cheese, chocolate, and gelato), and has authored more than a dozen books on the subject—with “raw” in most of the titles.
For his latest feat, Kenney has brought his heathy eating philosophy and truly delicious cuisine to the shoppers of the high-end Beverly Hills flagship Neiman Marcus. At any given hour, the tables are jammed with patrons of all ages sipping smoothies and dipping into hummus bowls while gazing out at Prada and YSL gowns on the showroom floor. A new take on the casual retail café of dining has been born: no more scarfing down soggy tuna wraps during a break from retail therapy. Now you can have your avocado-and-Key-lime pie and eat it, too (and still fit into that slinky LBD).
We spoke with Kenney about his new partnership, and why he’s on a mission to bring plant-based food to the mainstream.
World Tomato Society: How did the partnership with Neiman Marcus come about?
Matthew Kenney: Partnering with a brand like Neiman Marcus was a natural fit for us. Their clientele is one of refined taste and style, and our goal is to deliver a quality meal and experience at Matthew Kenney NM to match the expectations of these discerning shoppers. Having our first partnership restaurant in Beverly Hills is a great homecoming for our team. Los Angeles and our flagship restaurant Plant Food + Wine in Venice is really our home base, so we couldn’t be happier to add another LA-area restaurant to our roster.
WTS: This venture is bringing plant-based cuisine even more into the mainstream. Are there plans to grow this concept in other departments stores or museums around the country?
MK: My first priority with Matthew Kenney Cuisine is to show the world that food can be healthy for people and the planet. I want to reach as many people as possible. Creating cafés in places like the Neiman Marcus stores across the country is a great way to touch a wide audience. We are very pleased to be in this relationship and we do hope we have an opportunity to expand together.
WTS: We were happy to see your famous zucchini lasagna made it onto the NM menu. What other dishes have customers been gravitating toward?
MK: We wanted to keep the menu in traditional café style, so that guests who aren’t vegetarian or vegan would still find the offerings approachable. That means keeping recognizable menu sections such as starters, salads, sandwiches, and pastries, but adapting the items to be fully plant-based and vegan. Adding a section of bowls was key, as we know that these items can really sell, based on our other restaurant locations. We took some of the best sellers from our other local restaurant concepts and tweaked them to work for both a leisurely lunch or a quick bite on the go. So far, the response has been great.
Our avocado toast is another signature dish, though the toppings for Neiman Marcus are different. The Tuscan kale Caesar was inspired by a salad we had on the menu at Plant Food + Wine Venice. The burger is also inspired by a PFWV classic, as is the wild mushroom sandwich.
WTS: Was there anything that surprised you about the department store diners versus one of your standalone restaurants?
MK: I don’t think I’d call this entirely a surprise, but I’m excited about how department store diners are just as hungry for wholesome, healthful dining options as the ones that come to our standalone restaurants. Having opened several plant-based restaurants throughout LA over the last few years, I’ve seen the wellness trend and demand for healthy food grow. Matthew Kenney NM will fill a gap in dining options at the department store and will complement other culinary choices not only in Neiman Marcus itself, but within Beverly Hills and on Wilshire.
WTS: We must ask: Do you have any favorite tomato varieties that you can’t live without?
MK: There is nothing like a beautiful heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato, raw with a good olive oil, salt, and avocado. I like yellow sunbursts, as well.