Expo 2020: Chef Matthew Kenney hopes to inspire visitors to try out plant-based cuisine

His vegan outlets at the Expo have an array of tempting fare.


Ambica Sachin

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Published: Sat 15 Jan 2022, 9:58 AM

Last updated: Sun 16 Jan 2022, 12:48 PM

Is plant based cuisine the future of food? An emphatic yes if you go by celebrity chef Matthew Kenney, the best-selling author and culinary tour de force of raw food. And what better place to showcase this than at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Kenney has three plant-based food concepts at the venue - Veg’d, XYST, and Mudra, catering to all day breakfast sandwich, an afternoon tea along with vegan small food bites and desserts and a rooftop venue serving plant based sushi, BBQ and cocktail menu.

If that isn’t enough to tantalize your taste buds then check out our interview with the guru of plant based cuisine himself who will be visiting our fair shores soon, to find out why Veganuary isn’t as boring as it is made out to be!

Why is plant-based cuisine the food of the future according to you?

I truly believe the world is waking up and certainly more concerned about what they put in their bodies so the future is certainly bright for plant based cuisine. We are only getting started.

Other than its obvious health benefits, why do you believe going vegan is the way forward for us?

I feel this could be a real turning point for the vegan movement in the Middle East. Dubai has always been a melting pot of different cultures with many vegan options and we now hope our venue can show visitors that adopting a plant-based diet can not only recharge you but gives your body a break from heavy meats and dairy. You will find you have a lot more energy, the benefits are endless for both your body and your mind and it certainly does not have to be boring. Diners can still enjoy pizza, sushi, nachos and all the good things in life whilst maintaining a healthy diet.

Raw food seems to be your obsession with most of your recipe books around this theme. Tell us why it is so?

When I first discovered the raw lifestyle I began exploring fermented foods primarily for their health benefits—for good immunity, digestion, and mood. Their probiotics I find to be super helpful to digestion. Sauerkraut and aged tree nut cheeses are two of my personal favourite fermented foods, but kombucha and yogurt are good, too. And as a chef, fermented food also adds a depth of flavour and an ability to preserve fresh ingredients naturally. Just be mindful that pasteurized or sugary fermented items do not hold the same health benefits.

Do you think we’d ever get over our craving for ready to eat meals and drive-through junk food outlets, that is so convenient and in many cases far cheaper than fresh food?

I think there’s an enormous demographic of people who would love to eat pizza or fast food every day but don’t because they feel like it’s not healthy or they’re lactose intolerant. And I think those who eat traditional pizza will also appreciate a plant based option, because it’s not such a big departure. The flavours are just as bold. The food’s really beautiful. It’s satisfying. There is nothing wrong with indulging every now and then, everything in moderation. I do not think we will ever get over our craving for ready to eat meals and drive through junk food but I believe there are so many healthier alternatives out there to make it easier and guilt free.

What dish would you recommend from your menu to impress a first time vegan diner?

Kimchi dumplings because they represent a plant based alternative without compromising culinary artistry, flavour, presentation or experience.

Why are events like Expo Dubai 2020 important for your craft?

We use innovative techniques and creative thinking to produce minimally processed plant-based cuisine that is delicious, vibrant and nutritious. Our ethos is reflected in Expo 2020’s theme: ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. This is a huge deal for us, and we are truly excited to be part of this and leading the way for plant-based dining at Expo this Veganuary.

What’s the biggest misconception about plant based food you have come across?

The biggest challenge is the lack of mainstream accessibility. There can be a misconception around raw and plant-based foods that they are not as flavourful or filling as other foods, and my goal is to change people’s minds with our trendy, approachable restaurants.

Matthew Kenney at Dubai Expo 2020

From a fast food concept Veg’d to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Comfort cuisine at XYST to M.A.K.E food trucks, Kenney is on a mission to satisfy all kinds of culinary desires at the Expo. “At Veg’d, first time plant based eaters can try either our burgers or bowls; Mudra is an elevated take on sushi and pizzas by Double Zero, and XYST is modern Mediterranean, which include our cold and hot mezze. They are perfect for sharing and really gives first time plant-based eaters the room to really discover our vast array of options.” And while the mantra ‘there is something for everyone’ is going well for him it is the fast-casual concept, Veg’d, that is a big hit with diners we hear.

Check out Matthew Kenney Cuisine at the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020

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