Amanda Cohen is the chef and owner of the phenomenal Michelin-starred, vegetable-based restaurant Dirt Candy on New York's Lower East Side.
Since 2008, Dirt Candy has influenced and revolutionized the way diners and chefs think about the foods that were traditionally relegated to the sidelines.
Amanda is unique in her approach to plant-based cooking (Broccoli Dogs and Mushroom Mousse, anyone?) and running a restaurant, and was kind enough to share some of her wisdom about cooking vegetables and running a business with integrity with mindbodygreen.
Dirt Candy is about serving really good food, not a lifestyle.
"I think of Dirt Candy as a vegetable restaurant, not a vegetarian restaurant. There are terrific vegetarian restaurants out there that cater to the lifestyle, but I’m not one of them.
"All I want to do is make vegetables taste as delicious as possible. And from that point-of-view, there’s no stigma [to having a vegetarian restaurant] at all.
"There’s no other restaurant in the city like Dirt Candy that does what we do. For me, Dirt Candy has always been a hardcore personal challenge: can I make vegetables taste amazing without using meat as a crutch?"
Constantly evolving and experimenting keeps things fun and exciting.
"I’ve been a chef for close to fifteen years and by now looking at an ingredient and starting to think of dishes feels natural. I develop dishes by making them, then remaking them, then tweaking them, then making them again. It takes a while for me to get it right.
"These days, what usually happens is that I’ll see something or hear about something or eat something and think “What could I do with this? What would the Dirt Candy version of this be?”
"And then comes the testing. With my Broccoli Dogs I spent three months trying to make them work before throwing everything out and starting from scratch, which took another four weeks. I experimented with 38 different doughs before finding the one I use for the bun.
"And even after dishes go on the menu, I’m still tweaking them. Everything can always be better. The vegetable monkey bread each table gets at the new Dirt Candy has been on the menu for six months, and I just discovered a way to make them lighter and fluffier."