A Vegan Ladurée Rendez-Vous with Matthew Kenney
A love story of le macaron and les plantes.
Some say that opposites attract. So, perhaps we should have expected that the traditional French patisserie, Ladurée, would soon get together with plant-based celebrity chef, Matthew Kenney. The transition to veganism has been quite the dairy-free feat for the French legacy business. Colorful macaron shells and luscious ganache fillings are leaving their first loves. Au revoir, egg whites! Adieu, heavy cream! Instead, Elisabeth Holder and Matthew Kenney are making strides toward delicious, environmentally-conscious pastries together.
Founded in 1862, Ladurée has spent over 150 years curating a delectable selection of sweet and savory French cuisine. But, even the most tenured businesses can sense when they need a fresh change. Luckily, Kenney had plenty of culinary tricks up his sleeve to transform our favorite French dishes into vegan masterpieces. Even better, they taste just as très magnifique. BWB third-wheeled Matthew and Elisabeth over a traditional French tea to discuss Ladurée’s blossoming relationship with veganism. We’re talking new menus and plant-based croissants!
How did the two of you first meet?
E.H.: I met Matthew on Instagram! I loved his account and I sent him a DM! We met two days later and after an hour we knew that we would be working together. This is exactly what I love about the US – anything is possible and everything moves quickly!
M.K.: We connected on social media. Elisabeth was looking to make a change in the cuisine of Ladurée, and reached out to me after viewing photos of our dishes and all of the plant-based initiatives we have taken as a company. That’s one thing that I find really powerful about plant-based cuisine; all of the vibrant colors and textures can transform a dish into an aesthetic piece of art, and that can be translated through photography.
What was the most attractive thing about veganism for Ladurée?
E.H.: Matthew helped me understand that being vegan could be beautiful and tasty – exactly what we try to do for every single day at Ladurée. I’m so proud of our plant-based menu; we did it! In record time.
M.K.: I would have to say the size and scale of impact that we are able to have through partnering with such a renowned, global brand. Ladurée offering a vegan menu after 150 years of prominent French cuisine? It makes people turn their heads and listen because of the unexpectedness of it all. We’re certainly drawing a lot of attention to this movement of eating more sustainably and compassionately, and that builds momentum in our mission and we will continue doing what we’re doing.
How did you face the challenges of developing this vegan menu together (surely convincing the pastry chef to change such a long tradition was difficult!)?
E.H.: Our teams did it together. The know-how and professionalism of MKC (Matthew Kenney Cuisine) and the ones of our pastry chef and chef de cuisine just created some magic! There were only good vibes and everyone was working under the same motive – to succeed and change the world! Now we’re just a bigger family.
M.K.: Our culinary team is extremely creative, innovative and talented, so luckily there weren’t many challenges, all things considered. We dedicate so much time and energy into culinary innovation at MKC, so we have chefs in our Venice Beach test kitchen every single day, and their job description is to essentially just channel their creative energy into recipe and menu development. Whenever I hear the new plant-based pastries mentioned, it’s in the context of “I can’t believe this is vegan.”
What was the chemistry like in collaborating together? How did Ladurée’s longstanding Parisian traditions partner with Kenney’s plant-based philosophies?
E.H.: They really speak the same language about quality control and expertise. They have amazing know-how and the intelligence to work all together with no ego; this is how they have created magic!
M.K.: Our teams work together very well. I think we both have a strong grasp on our individual businesses and learn things from each other everyday. The collaboration is founded in values that we both believe in, so it’s pretty seamless. I couldn’t have asked for better partners or a better team to make it happen.
What are some of your favorite vegan dishes from the new menu?
E.H.: I love the omelet – I think it is really amazing. I love also our vol-au-vent (the traditional one we have was a recipe of my grandmother’s, so it was important for me to have a plant-based one) and the Californian salad is my most favorite salad ever! While the St. Honoré will always be my favorite pastry, the rose croissant is delightful for breakfast. I also love the matcha brunette, but we only have it in LA… For now.
M.K.: All of the macarons are extremely impressive, because you would never know the difference; And the plant-based croissants. It’s incredible how our chefs have been able to recreate the same specific textures, flavors, and physical aesthetic of such complex French pastries, but using so many alternative ingredients. On the savory menu, I love the vol-au-vent and the croque monsieur.
Where do you see Ladurée’s newfound relationship to veganism going in the future?
Bigger, better, onward.
E.H.: I think a worldwide, 150-year old pastry shop like us has a responsibility to show that we can have plant-based options that align with our standard of quality and taste, keeping them as delicious and beautiful as the original ones. We need to change–we must change. I want my kids to be proud of what we do here at Ladurée and build responsibility for taking care of our planet. This is not a trend; this is the future, and I’m very proud to be a part of it.
M.K.: Bigger, better, onward. We remain confident that this is only the beginning of our partnership, and our menus are already offered at several locations throughout the world. As of now, Beverly Hills is the only solely vegan location, but we have plans to open more outposts of Ladurée x MK in Europe and beyond.
Teresa Deely is a graduate from Columbia University with majors in English and Creative Writing. She is a freelance writer and marketing assistant working for clients in the wellness, jewelry, creative, and sports industries. She believes that one’s skin is yet another canvas and vehicle for art, and has loved styling her hair and applying makeup from a young age. Spending much of her time in educating youth and leading enrichment programs for children, she is highly motivated in discovering new ways to care for herself and sharing them with others.