Chef Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy - Biography

New York, NY

October 2011

Prior to opening her own restaurant, Amanda Cohen worked her way through the ranks of some of the city’s most esteemed vegetarian restaurants. After graduating from the Natural Gourmet Cookery School Chef’s Training Program, Cohen worked at Angelica’s Kitchen, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, Blanche’s Organic Café, Other Foods, Diner Bar, Teany, Pure Food and Wine, and Heirloom (which won Time Out New York’s Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” under her leadership). After consulting for vegan restaurant Blossom and for Broadway East, Cohen decided to take the leap to open her own restaurant, which embodies her green philosophy and love of vegetables.

As chef/owner of a vegetarian restaurant, New York’s 18-seat Dirt Candy, Cohen has a mountain of preconceptions to tackle before guests even step through the door. What this ambitious young chef wants people to realize is that her decision to cook vegetarian isn’t about political and health trends—it’s about creating vegetarian cuisine that celebrates vegetables and indulges your senses. No wonder most guests are blown away by Cohen’s rich and innovative (not to mention meat and meat-substitute-free) dishes, from luxurious portobello mousse to perfectly crisp jalapeño hushpuppies with sweet maple butter.

Cohen decided to build Dirt Candy green from the ground up once she realized that “it’s not that much more expensive just to take a few easy steps.” All of the equipment is LEED-certified; she used sustainable material to build everything; and her induction burner lets off less heat—a major savings and a plus in a restaurant that’s so small. And, of course, no meat nor fish on the menu instantly ups the sustainability quotient.