Vegan celebrity chef and international restaurateur Matthew Kenney is at it again. His latest project, HUMBL, which he developed with partner Paul Mascia, just opened its first outpost in Orlando. With more locations to come, HUMBL is a departure from Kenney’s well-respected work in the upscale dining world. It’s fast-casual, it’s affordable, and there are no kitchen tweezers or compote squeeze bottles in sight—except in the form of ketchup bottles. VegNews sat down with Kenney and Mascia for a run-down on the menu, the concept, and when we can expect a HUMBL in our hometown. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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From fine-dining to fast-casual
In just the past year, we’ve observed Kenney moving away from the fine dining culinary scene and inching closer to concepts we could visit every day. No doubt, Plant Food and Wine, XYST, Bar Verde, and his other high-end restaurants around the world still hold a special place in our hearts and stomachs, but unfortunately, our wallets and time restrain most of us from visiting every night. The first step-down to everyday food came by way of Double Zero, a rapidly expanding vegan pizza restaurant with light-as-air crust and an energetic atmosphere. But still, this had more of a Friday night feel than a I-just-left-the-office-dinner-for-one-please vibe. While his accessible frozen entrée line is still in the works, HUMBL is the first iteration of Kenney’s new relaxed, kid-friendly, would-you-like-fries-with-that persona. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Reinventing familiar favorites
The origins of HUMBL began with CEO Mascia, who had the initial idea but was in search of the culinary talent to make it happen. Kenney and Mascia were introduced over email, and after several discussions, Kenney became the Chief Culinary Officer and set to work. “The idea is familiar favorites done one hundred percent plant-based. It’s delicious and convenient with all the trappings of a fast-casual experience,” explained Mascia. Kenney chimed in, “It’s a very universal concept directed at everyone. It’s very ‘everyday’ food … that’s the beauty of fast-casual, because you get to appeal to a broader audience.” Mascia was determined to create a restaurant that was accessible to everyone, claiming that despite the by CHLOEs, Next Level Burgers, and Veggie Grills, there still remained a large gap in the market for affordable, healthy, and fast vegan food that appealed to all consumers—especially non-vegans. He knew that a classic burger-and-fries kind of menu, done well, would attract everyday customers and keep them coming back. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Testing out the recipes
One glance at the menu and anyone familiar with Kenney’s previous work might assume that the selection is simply a collection of greatest hits—a hodgepodge of his restaurants rolled into one, delivered on a tray instead of a carefully arranged plate. However, this is not the case. “Every item is unique to this concept,” Kenney assured. When you order one of the pizzas, you’re not getting a Double Zero pie—everything from the homemade sauce to the crust to the toppings was created anew for HUMBL. While on the topic of pizza, the Meat Lover, featuring housemade vegan bacon, fennel farro sausage, cauliflower, marinara, and two kinds of mozzarella cheese is definitely worth ordering. Though, to be honest, we also eyed The Shroom with its wild mushrooms, kale, lemon vinaigrette, and mushroom cream as well. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Burger talk 
HUMBL’s menu is vast—Kenney and Mascia have included all of our favorites from clean and fully loaded bowls and salads to a selection of fries to milkshakes and even a kid’s menu. Despite this slight anxiety provoking variety, when prompted, Kenney said that without a doubt, the burger was his favorite item. “It’s rich and indulgent, but it’s very clean and doesn’t make you feel heavy,” he explained. With 17 ingredients in the patty alone—including beets, beans, tahini, oat bran, maple syrup, sunflower seeds, herbs, garlic, onions, and a few secrets—we can tell this plant-based patty was certainly a labor of love. Mascia was quick to point out that the burger “is not intended to be a replacement for Impossible or Beyond in terms of trying to mimic from the lab. And yet it’s ‘meaty’ and delicious and the texture is something you can get a hold of.” So don’t expect this burger to bleed, but it’s incredible regardless. At HUMBL, guests can order this patty two ways. The classic HUMBL Burger includes spicy carrot mustard, cashew cheddar cheese, pickles, herbed aioli, Humbl sauce, lettuce, and tomato—it’s like the fast-food burger you grew up on, but vegan, and better. Those with a fine-dining palate will enjoy the Truffle Burger. It’s the same signature patty topped with crimini confit, truffle cream, and tomato jam—but don’t worry, it only tastes expensive. Whichever you order, Mascia highly recommended pairing it with the Thai Salad … or perhaps cheese fries and some soft-serve ice cream, which is made in-house, by the way. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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HUMBL in your hometown
You don’t have to plan a trip to Disneyworld to experience HUMBL (although, it’s a great excuse to go play at Disney and try out all of Orlando’s vegan eats). With a little patience, you might find a HUMBL near you. The duo plans to open three more HUMBLs within the next year, and they’re opening it up to franchise opportunities as well. After salivating over the menu, we might just go into the HUMBL business ourselves! 

Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.

Photo credit: HUMBL

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