Do you remember our Pardon My French episode with the visionary chef Matthew Kenney? Matthew has been defining the future of food for some time now with his projects that focus on plant-based foods.
Well, you can imagine our surprise and delight when we heard he would be collaborating with our beloved Ladurée on bringing plant based dishes to their menu. He’s taking over their Beverly Hills location with a fully vegan menu, and their other locations will feature a few of these vegan dishes. We asked Matthew a few questions about this collaboration between his progressive food revolution and this iconic heritage French patisserie.
Why was the partnership with Ladurée such a natural fit?
After many years of trial and error working in the plant-based space – it’s been almost 20 years since I first dipped my toes into this market – I’ve realized that some of the most successful projects are born from strategic partnerships. Because MKC has so many years of experience in developing plant-based recipes, training /educating chefs, and constantly going through the process of opening a restaurant from the ground up, we have a lot to offer when it comes to potential partnerships. Our company is able to offer our expertise in those areas to like-minded partners who wish to instill the same values into companies of their own.
When I first met with Elisabeth and David, I definitely recognized a passion to make some revolutionary changes to the long-standing family company that is Ladurée Paris. They are not only aware of the world’s shifting perspective on food consumption and healthy diet, but are actively influenced by it in the way they approach food on a personal level. Though Ladurée is a 150-year-old brand, it now lies in the hands of two people who understand the need for change and the transition to healthier, more sustainable consumer options.
Ladurée is, of course, one of the most well-known brands in the world, and one that has thrived off of the decadence of their famous macarons and french bistro dishes. We were thrilled when we had an opportunity to bring our plant-based perspective to the brand through this partnership, and it allows us to really step into new creative territory with our menus. French cuisine is notorious for the use of non-plant-based ingredients, and the chefs in our test kitchen were excited by the challenge of recreating traditional french cuisine using only plants.
I think this partnership is founded on our mutual desire to push boundaries and disrupt the conventional perception of food. Working with Ladurée, which is easily one of the most iconic brands for dishes that are decidedly not at all vegan-friendly, has been the perfect opportunity to show how much can be done in the plant-based space. We’re very excited to demonstrate how one can eat healthier and still have all of those amazing textures, flavors and dishes that they’ve always loved, and hopefully help shift the perspective.
Was it a challenge to re-imagine the traditions of french cooking and pastry making (what Ladurée is known for!) in the spirit of health food and plant-based cuisine? What was that process like?
Believe it or not, my first culinary training was at the French Culinary Institute in New York City (now the International Culinary Center), where I developed classically French cooking techniques, methodology and culture. The start of my culinary career was largely based off of this type of cooking technique, and it wasn’t until more than a decade later that I began exploring the possibilities of plant-based cuisine – so I’m actually very familiar with the traditional French cuisine and pastry that Ladurée is known for. Though it requires a lot of creativity and experimentation to formulate a plant-based version, we are extremely proud of the new menu.
We have four executive chefs working in what we call the “Matthew Kenney Test Kitchen,” a beautiful kitchen located above Plant Food + Wine, our Venice Beach flagship restaurant. Our culinary team works up there all day long to develop our new concept menus, and Ladurée has been a project that has challenged them in a new way.
It requires a lot of skill and innovation to recreate classical French dishes that are not only plant-based, but also crafted with clean, pure ingredients that align with our own cooking philosophy – and it’s these types of projects that we most look forward to.
What were your inspirations for the new menu? And, why is California the perfect Ladurée location to launch this new project?
Ladurée and their french cuisine was really the inspiration for most dishes. We wanted to create a menu that aligns with the brand and resonates with the culinary empire they’ve built in the last century. The goal was to make the menu as familiar as possible – while of course meeting standards and serving food that is just as good or better – while also implementing our philosophy of clean, source-driven ingredients. As a company, one of our biggest long-term objectives is to really showcase how versatile, sophisticated, sexy and complex plant-based cuisine can be.
California seems like a good starting point for the launch of Ladurée x MK for many reasons: 1) the seasonal produce is absolutely fantastic, and there is an unending supply of fresh, bountiful ingredients from local farms, year-round; 2) the lifestyle in California is often synonymous with health and wellness, and the demand for clean, fresh food is consistently high; and 3) our homebase is in California — Venice Beach, to be exact — is where we have our flagship restaurant Plant Food + Wine and the MK Test Kitchen sitting above it. I have found that the landscape here, with its abundance of wild-grown citrus, produce, and vast supply of herbs, edible flowers and mushrooms for us to forage, is an inspiration in itself for creativity and innovation. There are always opportunities to find inspiration for a new dish when drifting through the many local farmers markets…
Can’t-miss dish from the new menu?
The Vol-au-Vent, which is a classic French puff pastry that serves as a shell for a savory filling. Our dish utilizes morel, champignons, petit pois, and morel velouté – a savory combination of mushrooms, green peas and a rich white morel sauce – which create a decadent filling within our house-made puff pastries. I love this one because it’s rich and satisfying, and probably the antithesis of what one would expect out of a vegan meal. Though we have prepared it without animal products, it still respects the traditional French version of the dish and aligns with the style of cuisine that Ladurée is known for.