#34: Jean George’s Favorite Plant-Chef Tells All! with Neal Harden, Chef of ABCV

ABCV

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Neal Harden knows his way around plants. He knows how to dice ‘em, slice ‘em, present ‘em and combine ‘em in ways that makes them taste better than they’ve probably ever tasted before. Neal, the chef de cuisine of ABCV, a plant-based mecca and the third installment of the Jean George run ABC restaurants, is nothing short of a plant-whisperer. From breakfast to dinner he’s non-stop pumping out some of the most innovative and palate-pleasing ways to eat plants. It really takes some sort of plant guru to serve a simple plate of sauerkraut to rave reviews and accolades such as  “groundbreaking.” JUST SAUERKRAUT. That you eat with a fork. In our chat, which he kindly recorded at ABCV during some down time, if such a thing exists in a booked out for months restaurant, Neal humbly gives us a backstage view of what it’s like to run and execute a world-class plant-based restaurant. Although he isn’t able to give us all reservations…even to breakfast.


A great big thanks to Genexa for sponsoring this episode! This might be mind-blowing but Genexa is actually an ORGANIC MEDICINE company (<– no that’s not a typo). Genexa has a line of 11 one-better-than-the-next homeopathic medicines that work with your body to rid itself of anything from a cold, to allergies, to sleeplessness, to stress, to muscle pain to jet lag!

genexa

And when I say “they work with your body” I really mean it! For that’s what homeopathic medicine is: it’s medicine that utilizes plants to kind of remind our body of it’s abilities to work properly. It’s as spectacular sounding as it is tasting (seriously – their chewable pills that come in fabulous flavors such as vanilla lavender, grape, and acai berry).
As a Party in My Plants podcast listener, you can save a whopping 30% of any Genexa products!! Just go to their website and use code PARTYPLANTS.

Fun stuff from this ‘sode:

Neal is the “Chef de Cuisine” of ABCV, my umm, favorite restaurant* in all of NYC! This means he’s literally “the chef of the kitchen.” He’s the one in ABCV’s kitchen every day running the menu, making the food, making sure those tasty AF plants come out every single day. (Except Sundays because they’re not open Sundays yet.)

*(You heard my podcast episode outlining the best plant-party restaurants in NYC, right?)

To get the gig as Chef de Cuisine of ABCV (which btw – is a JEAN GEORGE restaurant!), Neal had to cook three things in three hours for Jean George to taste. Uh, no pressure…

Luckily, Jean George liked Neal’s plants and the rest was history (and a dream come true for Neal).

photo by NY.Eater

Before ABCV, Neal worked in Bali, Brooklyn and in the kitchen of one of the all-time best plant-party restaurants (RIP) Pure Food and Wine.

The struggle for a good descriptive term for ABCV is REAL. Jean George likes plant-based because he thinks “vegetarian” sounds like a disease! Haha. I obviously like plant-based too!

Neal believes…

“A part of eating healthy is moderating moderation.”

^ freaking love that.

“I tell my cooks every day that the thing that makes us different, the thing that makes a great restaurant vs. a bad restaurant is just the fact that you can do it the same way every day and that people have the same experience every day.”

So, what’s the hardest thing about running ABCV?

Neal says…

“The hardest thing is maintaining the quality and consistency.”

It was interesting how Neal explained that there’s a huge difference between cooking at a restaurant and cooking at home. At home, you take things from start to finish but at a restaurant, different components get prepared at different times and in different places and by different people.

Grubstreet called Neal’s sauerkraut dish (yes he serves an actual just eat-with-your-fork-on-a-plate sauerkraut) GROUNDBREAKING.

photo by Grub Street

I agree. (Oh and remember my epic sauerkraut chat with clean eating queen Terry Walters? #throwback!)

Neal’s buckwheat sourdough bread is one of the best things in the entire world. No exaggeration. (I spoke with Terry Walters about sourdough, too!)

The biggest ABCV menu seller so far? Lettuce cups!

photo by Zagat

Some of Neal’s fav dishes? The sauerkraut and roasted carrots to name a few.

photo by NYTimes

He says,

“We have pastas and things like that but I prefer the smaller vegetable dishes because you can really focus in on just a couple of flavors. I like to see the tables full of all those smaller veggie dishes. Seeing those rainbows on the tables is really great.”

Neal’s been vegetarian since he was a teen!

Neal’s favorite plant to eat: if he hassss to pick…tomato

Look forward to an heirloom tomato salad with fresh figs and ginger with a sherry vinegar maybe hitting ABCV’s menu!

Neal’s favorite kitchen tool: KNIFE! Spoken like a true chef. And at home, a microplane – which he uses to zest!

A book that’s really inspired Neal in some way: The Art of Cooking with Vegetables by Alain Passard

SO, MAKE YOUR RES AT ABCV HERE & NOW!

Oh and like I mentioned, Neal and I both graduated from the amazing plant-based culinary school, The Natural Gourmet Institute. (I actually recommend their open-to-the-public BYOB student-cooked Friday Night Dinners as a top plant-party food experience in this episode/guide.)

natural gourmet institute

Since I’m a proud alumn of NGI, I have the power and privilege to offer you a whopping $500 off your enrollment! Follow in my or Neal’s food footsteps and check out their super Certificate Programs AND USE COUPON CODE:NGIXPARTYINMYPLANTS” FOR $500 OFF any of them!

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