In the Maldives there's a new restaurant called Botanica with Matthew Kenney

One&Only Reethi Rah hosts the famous US chef, founder of the Food Future Institute, famous for its pioneering approach to cooking in a sustainable way

12-11-2021

There's no place more special to host the new restaurant Botanica with Matthew Kenney than the luxury resort in the Maldives called One&Only Reethi Rah. It is a unique natural jewel, with its dreamy beaches, exotic atmosphere, perfect to appreciate a cuisine whose philosophy is based on respecting the environment, and is now acknowledged and famous on a global scale. We're talking of Matthew Kenneyfamous chef from the US, founder of the Food Future Institute, the first culinary academy dedicated to raw food, author of twelve cookbooks, already nominated among the best chefs in the US for Food & Wine in 1994. He's appreciated for his ars coquendi, which focuses on vegetal ingredients, and for his pioneering approach to the evolution of cooking in a sustainable way. Which he interprets through light, fresh, imaginative and elegant dishes, both creative and contemporary, inspired by the natural simplicity of the Maldives.

In the luxurious and charming gardens of Botanica, guests can savour his “pure and vegetal cuisine, in a menu that includes some of our most classic dishes, with a focus on local ingredients and flavours”, says the chef. You dine in the idyllic open-air potager or surrounded by the colourful entourage of the Orchid HouseKenney draws from a rich kitchen garden full of vegetables and herbs, offering a culinary experience that is completely based on vegetables, plus natural and local ingredients, like royal oyster mushrooms, summer pumpkins and banana flowers. The perfect pairing is offered by Botanica's Gin Bar, which is includes a selection of 34 gins from all over the world.

What are the peculiarities of Botanica? What makes it different from the other One&Only Reethi Rah restaurants?
Botanica magnificently completes the other catering options offered by the resort, with a particular attention to the use of local ingredients and the creation of beautiful dishes made with vegetables. Our cuisine represents the spirit of the earth and honours the natural generosity that is available here. It has an international inspiration, hence some of the dishes can have Indian flavours while others have Italian roots, yet everything blends perfectly.

How important is a sustainable approach so that guests can become aware of respecting what nature offers? Is the menu also conceived in a zero-waste way?
The sustainable approach is crucial, in these times. Sustainability is at the core of all we do at MKC. Since it's a 100% plant-based company, we're naturally more sustainable than other businesses that use meat or animal products, but we try to take a further step forward to reduce waste to a minimum, by using every part of the plants, nuts, and cereals.

What are your favourite types of cooking for this cuisine?
At Botanica we use some of our classic techniques like pressing so as to enhance the aromas of the ingredients, fermentation and cooking of local ingredients in two open air fires. As with all our menus, the formats are in constant evolution having products always at the core.

Does the menu change according to season?
Yes, it will surely change depending on product availability. We intend to guarantee an authentic experience, faithful to what nature offers at each time. The menu includes starters, main courses and desserts. Plus home-made nut cheese, local ingredients like banana flowers, and we mix them with some of our classic dishes which have become pillars in many of our restaurants over the years.

How do you think you will charm the palate of your international guests?
Our company has over 45 restaurants all around the world, so we're familiar with working in an international setting. We have discovered that through research, testing and working with different aromas and flavours, we can cook dishes with a pure, unique and innovative taste, which our guests always appreciate.

What are the goals of the Food Future Institute? What is the genesis of this project?
We have created the first vegetable cuisine school in the world, over 15 years ago, and it was my dream to give new energy to this project, which we did in May 2020. FFI offers students from all over the world the opportunity to learn dynamic skills and techniques to create a vegetal cuisine of high standards. The school's online platform offers global access to our courses, favouring a diversified learning space which is enriched by a multitude of cultures and unique perspectives. One of the FFI's main projects is to unite people who share the same way of thinking and vision: a world with a more aware approach to consumption, a food paradigm guided by health and a global change in priorities to create a more sustainable future. Even though the course is still only available online, at this stage, this winter we will open an institute with in-person classes in Venice, California, and soon another in Brooklyn.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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