Adam Kenworthy Really Wants You To Go Plant-Based But Promises He Won't Make You
We're gonna be honest here. We first heard about Adam Kenworthy on RHONY - the sexy plant-based chef who scored badass housewife Carole Radziwell and immediately stole our hearts with his gourmet spin on plants and lustworthy man buns. At fist glance, Adam Kenworthy seemed too good to be true. But upon meeting Adam in person, touring his Chelsea high-rise with Baby, and leaving with a jar of local manuka honey and a freshly juiced ginger + turmeric tonic he insisted on making us before leaving.... we're convinced he's too good to be real. We were positive men like this didn't exist.
Here you'll find a midwestern boy who has dedicated his life to spreading the power of plant-based foods, an athlete, gourmet chef, non-profit advocate, artist, yogi, and lover of animals, mother nature, and simplicity. He has run 100 mile races, owns a nonprofit organic farm in Nicaragua, and is a seasoned guitarist, photographer, and one of the best plant-based chefs we've come across. He's compassionate, respectful, creative, and insightful...not to mention, super talented and not hard on the eyes.
Maybe it's the plants, maybe it's the endorphins, but what we do know for sure, is that we can ALL learn a thing or two from this Sakara Man.
ON MOVING TO NYC
I went to school in Colorado and was very involved with endurance sports. I got into mountain bike racing, back country snowboarding, mountaineering, marathons, trail running, etc. While I was out there I began realizing the importance of food as fuel for better performance. Throughout college I continued to push the envelope with my sports, and right at graduation, I did a bike ride from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast from Washington state to Maine. Then a year later, I did my first triathlon, which was an Ironman in Australia.
I had this adventurous bug going upon completion of school, along with all this confidence in sports. I also started to get this confidence with my cooking, just because I was cooking so much at the time. Then, I ended up in New York, which is a funny story in itself... At the time, an ex-girlfriend of mine nominated me for Cosmo’s Bachelors, back when they were doing that. I was down in Nicaragua, laying in a hammock, and got a phone call from them. Apparently she’d tipped me off and given my number to someone at Cosmo. They were like, 'You’ve been nominated and we want you to represent Iowa, would you be interested?' So I came to New York, and did the shoot. When this all happened, I decided to change things up and go on a new adventure in this new city. There was a moment where I was like, 'Oh, why not give this a shot?'
"The best gift I can give someone is something that’s going to help heal them."
ON THE VEGAN TRAIN
Ever since, it’s been a roller coaster ride of clients. But all positive stuff! I’ve been out cooking on yachts, I've traveled all over the US and catered events for up to 300 people. I’ve cooked for the Secretary of Commence, Penny Pritzker, the Ambassador of Nicaragua… Tons of great people. I can’t even remember them all from over the years… it all just kind of happened.
I grew up in Iowa, so it was a lot of meat, cheese and potatoes. It was the opposite of a vegan diet. I think that ultimately, I feel more creative working with a plant-based menu. I look for inspiration in old dishes that I grew up on, but just for the way it was set up or how filling it was. My favorite thing is to pull inspiration and cook for non-vegans and have satisfying meals for them. Especially something that’s typically a meat dish, but I make it plant-based. It really opens people eyes.
I guess the whole thing I’m just trying to portray, is that food is fun. Take it easy, have fun, and make it an event! Put on some music, laugh... I think some people can get so intimidated with recipes because they don't think they're capable of presenting it a certain way. But that’s so crazy... My whole thing is simplicity. I’ve worked with some chefs that are always adding things to make the recipe more complex, whereas I’m trying to get away from all that. I'm always simplifying.
ON SHIFTING TO A PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE
The big underlying shift for me came about eight or nine years ago when I watched Food, Inc. I saw it, and at the same time, there was the whole egg + E. Coli thing going on in Iowa, and these guys were behind the scenes of what it actually looks like in the factories. I realized that this 'food' is just junk, and the fact that these guys can get away with it, or that these people can get away with such poor conditions and crappy meats that have all these different chemicals in them… Everything just hit home for me. It got me thinking on meats, and especially fish, and how it should stay to the coast. Even though it seems super fresh and is shipped frozen, the quality is not the same. Not to mention, every place is getting over-fished because there are all these in-land places that are eating sushi four nights a week. Yellow fin tuna is going extinct because of it.
There are so many reasons why I’ve become so into this lifestyle over the past couple years. It started more political, and then moved into ecological, and now it’s just a societal thing where I truly believe in the possibility of a healthier society. And to be honest, I’m not strictly-vegan or plant-based. If I go out to eat with friends and there’s a little bit of butter in the dish, it's not a big deal... Or if there’s no vegetarian option but there’s a sustainable fish dish with a side of veggies, then I’ll go for that. The past couple years, my biggest lesson has just flexibility. I travel all over the world and I have for quite some time, and the last thing I want to be doing is stressing about food, especially when I’m in an exotic location with a exotic culture learning new things. People have become so obsessed with their relationship to food, that I think they forget that being able to eat strictly plant-based vegan is a first world luxury. At the end of the day, having a $10 juice a few times a week is not something most of the world has access to.
ON FOOD + LABELS + THE VEGAN MOVEMENT
People have weird relationships to food these days. Some want to go vegan overnight, but I don't think that’s necessary. You have to let your body adjust and not be so harsh with yourself. I think this is what’s led me to be more flexible with my own diet, because there was a long period where I was strictly vegan, but it was hard to go out and eat with friends.
It takes time to adjust to going plant-based. Whenever I work with clients, I tell them that I’ll help get them set up and add things to their diet, but I won’t clean anything out. My whole practice is to bring in more good stuff. These people usually have super clean counter tops and put away all their junk in the pantry. But I come in and will put colorful fruits in a big bowl on their granite island so that when they have the option to grab something, it’ll be fruit instead of the junk. Then over time, they’ll start to crave the fruit stuff instead. I’m trying to tippy-toe around what it is that makes them feel good and not just feed them what I think the answer should be. There’s this transitional period that most people need to go through, so forcing a vegan diet onto them isn’t going to work well. They’ll first go through a phase of feeling like crap, because their body is detoxing and they feel hunger all the time. But I know how amazing they’ll feel once it’s over.
I think it’s such bullshit to be telling everyone how they should be eating. For me, the greatest accomplishment is to be a guest in someone’s house and cook for them, and have them just really appreciate it. I’ve had people write me handwritten notes saying, 'Hey Adam you really changed my life this week, just by cooking... You’ve really inspired me.' All because I cooked them beautiful food, without forcing them with my words and ways. I think that’s what we should all be shooting for - to have our actions inspire, but not force something down someone’s throat, and I think that that’s what has gotten super mixed up in the vegan movement. People are so proud to be vegan, thinking that it's the only solution - which in a lot of ways it is - but just because someone else is eating meat most of the time doesn’t mean life isn’t going to work out for them.
"I want to simplify things so that people aren’t so intimidated. "
Of course, there’s a lot of positive happening in the movement too, but I think that people need to chill out a lot more on their judgements, which is what’s led me to chill more on my judgements about myself and how I interact with food. If I go out and have some wild salmon or something, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Or, if I’m in Nicaragua and someone makes me a nice meal and there’s a little bit of meat in there, I’m not going to turn it down. I’m going to be respectful. Just as I would like for them to try out my vegan food and not immediately hate on it.
ON HOW TO GET YOUR LOVER GO PLANT-BASED
I love YouTube for the different documentaries that people can watch to get inspired by. These are some of the first things I’ll recommend for people going on a plant-based diet. It takes research. When I first started, I did a ton of research on scientific studies about protein, and I found that we don’t really need that much of it, and we can get it from vegetables and grains and obviously, from legumes.
Some people comment on my Instagram pictures like, 'Oh that’ll keep me full for maybe five minutes…' People don’t realize that when you’re eating nutrient dense foods, you don’t require as much food, because you’re not as hungry. Overeating causes a lot of problems - physically - because when the body is always digesting, it's never on a break. But if you're eating smaller meals packed with nutrient-dense foods, your body’s going to digest more efficiently, and absorb more efficiently. A lot of people also don’t realize that the reason they eat more when they’re eating empty carbs or empty nutrients is because their body is calling out for more nutrients, not more calories. Whereas, if you’re eating a rich salad, a juice, or a smoothie, the body will be like, 'Okay I’m cool' and won’t be so starved for more.
The protein debate is all just misinformation. The only time I’ve ever used protein supplements is if I'm training hard and lifting weights and my body feels like it needs a little extra something. I’ll do it in a smoothie with some brown rice, plant-based protein. When people see me working out, and swimming laps, they’re like, 'Well where do you get your protein!?' And I laugh at that, every single time. I come back at them with the good old answer of 'Well how do gorillas and rhinoceros and bulls get their protein? They get it from plants…' Guys need to become more educated, and I say guys because they’re who I’m talking about. The guys are more reluctant to research, just because they’re so used to their ways of how they’ve eaten protein their whole life, so for them to go out and actually actively research it seems crazy. But, that’s really what it takes. People need to be interested enough to do a little research for themselves.
Everybody has different body types, and we digest protein in different ways. But all in all, digesting plant protein is the most natural. To digest animal proteins, the body has to break the meat and reassemble the amino acid chains like a puzzle, put them back together, and then try to absorb. Whereas with plants, the proteins are there and accessible to be absorbed quickly.
People are obsessed with protein, but they have no information to back it up. It’s just something they’ve been told their whole life. But they also likely haven’t heard about something like the recent Princeton study on protein and how we really don’t need that much of it, and why. They’re just like, 'You need more protein! End of story.' They’re just talking to me on that level about it, and I think it’s so silly. I laugh every time I hear it.
"People don’t always realize the work that goes into sourcing their food. "
ON HOW TO WOO YOUR LOVER WITH PLANT-FOODS
Well...depending on how well the date goes, I make really good pancakes the next morning. I use almond meal and brown rice flour, and then throw blueberries and bananas into the batter, and maybe toast some pecans, drizzle with maple syrup and cinnamon. I’ve also been doing some matcha pancakes, or almond meal + brown rice flour chia waffles… I like all that hearty stuff the morning.
The legacy I would like to leave with food is to tie it all back into the process of cooking. I really just like to inspire people to get creative, and that’s it. There are no bounds to creativity, and I want for people to get more creative with their food and become their own inspiration when they go into the kitchen. I want them to look at salads in a new way, or try to make something that they saw me make that allows them to be creative. That is a major win for me.
I want to co-create. I truly love to co-create because there is so much potential with it. I want to leave a legacy with that. I’ve worked with some chefs that are really proud, and almost borderline egotistical of their work, and I’m over here just a self-taught chef like, 'Oh what do I know?' Sometimes, I think people go to school for this and that to feel like they have more of a grasp on what they’re doing , but I want to bring more humility and humbleness to the cooking.
I want to simplify things so that people aren’t so intimidated. If people can put aside their own views and styles and just try to collaborate, that's something that I think is super important and something really I'm focused on. This kind co-creation is what ties people into having a fun night. 'You’re not a professional chef… well neither am I, but let’s do something together and get creative.' This is what I speak for. My actions speak for fun, food, and creativity.