Matthew Kenney came to Miami to start a vegan revolution.
Instead, Kenney, a celebrated chef and cookbook author known as a raw food wizard, has lost his Wynwood restaurant, Plant Food and Wine. And he is being sued for more than $1.4 million for unpaid rent and for reneging on an agreement to not open a competing Miami restaurant, a Miami Herald investigation into public records show.
In the meantime, Kenney’s landlord has taken control of the restaurant and retained most of the staff, including chef de cuisine Horacio Rivadero, who has led the kitchen since the restaurant’s inception.
It’s not Kenney’s first brush with financial failure. A trail of liens and lawsuits touches New York, Miami, Oklahoma City, Maine and Los Angeles.
In 2004, Kenney filed for bankruptcy in New York in the wake of debts and lawsuits related to his restaurants. Now he has paved another trail of at least two dozen liens, complaints and lawsuits around the country, a Miami Herald review of public records shows. They range from state and federal IRS claims that he hasn’t paid his employees’ taxes to lawsuits by angry landlords, suppliers and culinary students.
Until June, the empire also included eight culinary schools, including ones in Barcelona, Berlin and Wynwood, adjacent to Plant Food and Wine. But last month, Kenney sold assets of Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy to his former COO and interim CEO, Adam Zucker, Zucker said. Kenney’s presence has been scrubbed from the website. Caught in the transition were students who had paid thousands of dollars in tuition and travel expenses for a scheduled culinary course in Miami that was abruptly canceled.
Locally, Kenney, considered a pioneer in fine raw-food cuisine, opened Plant Food and Wine in February 2016 to much fanfare. It drew a four-star (exceptional) review from the Herald, one of only two in 2016.