Vegan Chefs, Dreaming of Success, Emerge in Miami
Keith Kalmanowicz is a busy guy.
billwisserphoto.com / Courtesy of Love & Vegetables Keith Kalmanowicz (left) picks hot peppers at Earth N' Us Farm; Avril Johnnidis of Love & Vegetables in the kitchen.
In the past two hours, he's petted a black emu, chatted up a Jamaican medicine man, shown me a composting toilet, and confessed that he's fed a chubby pig named Shuffles perhaps too much brioche. Sitting on a bench at Earth N' Us Farm in Little Haiti on a sultry Wednesday afternoon, Kalmanowicz has talked for an hour nonstop. Splashes of sweat soak his pink bandanna, which he wears beneath a Panama hat.
"A lot of people cook vegan food that isn't made for flavor," he says, petting his long blond beard like a cat. "So when I go out to eat at those restaurants, I'm just like, 'This food sucks, man. There are no good vegan restaurants in Miami.' "
And Kalmanowicz certainly knows what good food tastes like. He's worked under Sam Gorenstein at BLT Steak in South Beach and Michael Schwartz at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District. After discovering a passion for healthful food, he started applying restaurant techniques to plant-based recipes. In 2012, he quit his day job and launched a vegan pop-up called Love & Vegetables. "I figured that Miami needs it, so I better do it," he says.
He's not the only one who sees opportunity in veganism. In the past year, a smattering of plant-based chefs has emerged in Miami, pulling the city abreast of other metropolises where that lifestyle is more deeply entrenched. These chefs practice inclusive vegan cookery, a cuisine that appeals to omnivores and herbivores alike. Their success hinges on providing the city with something it lacks: chef-driven plant-based food that's actually delicious.
The concept has roots in Miami and beyond. Vegan restaurants run by chefs populate other cities. There's Vedge in Philadelphia and Millennium in San Francisco. In Manhattan, fine-dining restaurants like Thomas Keller's Per Se and Daniel Boulud's Daniel cater to vegans by proffering plant-based tasting menus. Next -- a Chicago restaurant owned by Grant Achatz, one of the most celebrated chefs in the nation -- launched a critically acclaimed vegan tasting menu earlier this year.