What if we told you that we found the perfect guy? No, really. Personal chef, master photographer, charity work in Nicaragua, and an ease about him that most men don’t have. However, don’t mistake Adam Kenworthy’s relaxed demeanor as laissez-faire. He is fiercely passionate about all of his endeavors, especially his vegan-based (but not strictly) cooking aesthetic.
Kenworthy discussed his upcoming cookbook in the works, which will focus in on different “food movements” and will involve his girlfriend, journalist and author Carole Radziwill, in a unique way.
“She is going to be involved in the book; it’s going to be kind of about a narration that represents what is happening with the different food movements, because she [Radziwill] doesn’t associate with being vegan and here she is dating a vegan chef! I think it’s an interesting narrative to kind of add in of what happens when you have a romantic relationship with two opposing views - and it can almost be a religion now with the way people eat,” Kenworthy said.
A humorous example of this that Kenworthy draws from is the fact that Radziwill “had no idea that I was a vegan chef or vegan for a long time until she realized that I never ordered meat or eat eggs.” What we found refreshing was his philosophy on being vegan and how he wants to focus on the positive aspects. He tells us that unlike the Facebook memes, he wants to break the judgmental stigma of what it means to eat vegan. “I want the book to represent an open mindedness; it’s kind of more about having fun and inspiring than it is trying to guilt someone into eating a certain way. It will be plant-based but have optional add-ins, so if you aren't ready to go ‘full grains,’ you can add some Parmesan on top or of that sort.”
Kenworthy just launched a Kickstarter campaign for Grow.Bar, the hydroponic evolution of the Chia Pets that you grew up with in the 1980s. You can grow micro greens like rosemary, basil, and mint with the growth period being a week to 10 days, without any of the insects or dirty problems growing usually has. Sticking with his theme of modernizing healthy eating without added pressures, Kenworthy says he likes the product because “you don’t have to necessarily be a foodie or a chef to work with it. I think it’s just really nice to have plants growing in your house and watching them sprout and grow over the week, and I think it will help people to look at food in a new way and be more interested in the process of cooking because now they have all of these fresh herbs to work with. Whether they sprinkle it on their Dominos pizza or cook a nice pesto or use it in salad dressing, I think it’s pretty open-ended with its applications.”
Hearing the passion and vigor exuding through Kenworthy, we were excited for him to answer our 21 Questions.
Gemini, Aries rising.
What three current tracks are you listening to?
I listen to so many…umm off the top of my head I don’t know if I can pull anything out. Today it’s Mexican/Latin salsa music. One I’ve been listening to a lot is “La Vie En Rose” by Louis Armstrong. I’ve been listening to a lot of Dean Martin lately, so I’d say “Ain’t That a Kick in The Head.”
What is your favorite song that you like to play on your guitar?
“This is The First Day of My Life,” - who is that by? [Bright Eyes]. I like Sublime too, so all that stuff, his acoustic stuff. I like to try to play anything off of that album.
What’s your favorite NYC late night hang out?
Well, last night I was at the Ludlow House and I was pretty impressed with it. I was really surprised hearing gritty LES, but it was nice and clean with big open doors. Oh man, I found it more interesting than the Soho House.
What is your most prized possession?
I’d probably have to simply say I can’t narrow it down to one. I’ll probably say my cameras - I group them together. I travel everywhere with them; they are with me most of the time.
What food myth would you like to debunk?
Jeeze, well the easiest food myth to go after for me is like, “so you are a vegan, where do you get your protein?” The easy answer I tell people is like, “I get my protein from the same place that bulls and elephants and gorillas get theirs.” The strongest animals in the world, I get it from the same place.
What is your guilty snack food?
My guilty food isn’t within the veganism. To clarify, I associate more with vegan “flexitarianism.” I spent a lot of time in Nicaragua, and when I was staying in the sticks there wasn’t a lot of food or rice and beans and like, so the neighbors would have dinners with like yogurts, and they don’t have a lot of money. They live on the dirt floors and stuff, so if they are offering up food, and it’s an animal they killed whatever, unfortunately or not, you know, but along those lines of being “flexitarian.” My guilty pleasure would probably be croissants…. You can [make vegan croissants] but I don’t necessarily seek out the vegan places. Sometimes it’s just like if I’m at a coffee shop or something, they go well with cappuccinos—I’m all about the cappuccino but then I’m like - croissant!
What is one secret ingredient you think elevates most dishes?
I wouldn’t say it’s a secret ingredient really, but I tend to work well with citrus fruits. I think you can have fun with it, you can get different varieties of like lemons and limes that I like to work with, I like grapefruit stuff like that. I like the brightness of citrus.
Do you believe in putting soul into what you cook?
Yeah, but I think the more I cook, the more I realize there is a great practice of mindfulness that goes with my cooking. I cannot say every day when I wake up I try to meditate for 20 minutes, but I can’t do it every day. I’d say the same goes for my cooking. It’s like, you know maybe I’ll be anxious or pissed off about something, I’ll try to be mindful of the fact that when I’m cooking there is transfer of energy to what you are making. Also, I think more so then just the mindful factor is I see food as art, so it’s like when I’m making a dish not including my mindset, I’m always looking at it from an artistic standpoint is how I approach the dish. So I think that no matter what, I kind of put my soul into it because I view it almost like a painting, not to sound narcissistic, like look at this beautiful art.
What is your secret to converting an anti-cook into a chef or a foodie?
It depends if they drink or not… I would say I have tons of new playlists that I use for potluck dinners or I cook for myself, where I would put on a good playlist and then I’m really good at making margaritas. I’m very open in the kitchen, I never went to culinary school or worked as a line cook so I don’t really have that over my head. I really try to treat people as equals in the kitchen, so maybe if they have an idea I’m like “let’s do it, let’s taste it,” so I think maybe giving them a sense of confidence by letting them taste something. They can be very weary like “why are you asking me to taste it, I don’t have taste buds,” but I’m like “Well, let’s try to taste it, does it taste too salty? Does it not taste salty enough? Does it taste too sweet, does it taste too tart?” I try to show them the differences of what a chef would look for, and I think that that excites them. I think that making it kind of an event, it’s like instead of looking at it like work, I look at it more as a social, which makes people more excited because it’s not this like huge obstacle of like grocery shop, wash dishes, as a lot of times people are lazy and they don’t want to do all that stuff. So I switch it to listening to music and margaritas.
What’s your dream destination?
At the top of my list right now would be, Bhutan, New Zealand, and then probably some tropical island.
Next up on your bucket list?
I think my career and my passions are starting to overlap, so much I think I have been rapidly checking off my bucket list items. Now I like to film, so I find like documentary stuff, photography shooting short videos is something I’m very passionate about, so I would say my bucket list stuff is like in the next couple of years I would like to go up to Alaska. I would like to do more traveling. Surfing and snowboarding are all the things I miss the most while I live in New York, so that’s not necessarily a bucket list thing, but I would like to do more cultural travel and document the trip as far as like experience in impoverished areas and trying to get a message out there through video and photos.
If you were not a chef, what would you be?
An entrepreneur, but I feel like I’m already one since I have a freelance job.
Do you find it hard to eat at someone else’s table knowing you can make it better?
No, no. I find it hard to sit at someone else’s table when they feel like I feel like that, that’s the more difficult part of it… It’s like another artist saying my artwork is better, where for me it’s up to the perception of the viewer, and that’s the same for me, I don’t see myself like better, it’s just unique to me.
Tell us what is tougher in order: a triathlon, cooking for a demanding client or being on TV?
Well, I’ve only run one triathlon in my life and it was the hardest one, and a month before it was an Iron Man in Australia. The guy called me and was like, “You wrote on your application that you have never done a triathlon. You have to do a half Iron Man to even enter this.” So I had a guy that climbed Everest twice write a letter of recommendation for me. So, the Iron Man for sure, followed by cooking for a demanding client. I’ve only ever been on reality TV, so I don’t have to like remember lines and stuff or play anyone other than myself and I think I got that down pretty good!
What would you label your personal style?
Well everyone says I’m very laid back, but I would say I’m highly creative and I’m also like highly assertive and am really sharp that people don’t realize about me. So if something needs to happen and a problem needs to be solved I can be very sharp or sometimes a take a different approach and I’m more easy going about it.
What one men’s fashion trend would your say is part of you?
White t-shirts. I like the simplicity. I don’t do this, but I associate more with like the whole uniform. I wear a lot of denim, but I can wear the same clothes every day and not like care. My business partner Omar opened up a restaurant for Giorgio Armani and he was like, “I learned from the master, it’s either navy blue or black.” I like that because he was saying like it takes my mind off of what I have to wear, which allows me to focus on my cooking and my creativity.
What’s your favorite color?
I would say my favorite color is Caribbean blue, like a nice bright ocean.
What do you love and hate?
I hate incompetency. And for love, I’m simple, you know, I love a good adventure.
Words to live by?
Treat people like it’s your last day - meaning treat people kindly!
Check out Grow.Bar on Kickstarter (and don’t forget to donate!), and follow Adam Kenworthy on Instagram @AdamKenworthy where you’ll find his latest recipes, adventures, and breathtaking pictures of New York City.
By Nisim Frank + Liz Black
Photographs provided by Adam Kenworthy