Gabe Kennedy wants to build a better future for everyone.
The award-winning chef learned early about the power of alternative healing, sustainability and plant-based nutrition. After spending his teen years working in restaurants, he left his Boulder, Colorado home to study at The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University. First, he applied his accrued knowledge to private equity work with food brands including Organic Avenue, Brad's Raw Foods and Little Duck Organics. Then he switched gears and rose through the ranks as a chef, winning ABC’s primetime cooking competition series, The Taste, being named “Visiting Executive Chef" of Bon Appetit magazine and reimagining The Little Beet restaurants as director of culinary and innovation.
That’s when he connected with Hudson Gaines-Ross, a NYC-based serial entrepreneur and founder of cold brew coffee company, Rise. Together, they founded Plant People, a cult-favorite plant-based supplement line that incorporates organic, full-spectrum CBD and other herbs.
Here, Kennedy—recently recognized as one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30”—talks about the value of slowing down and reconnecting to his core values:
Live The Process: How did you first become interested in wellness and alternative medicine?
Gabe Kennedy: My career has been largely impacted by my upbringing in Boulder, Colorado with my parents as alternative medicine practitioners. Some may even say, I was born with a granola-filled spoon in my mouth! Instilled with a connection to nature and the world around me, I gravitated towards the medium of food, as it seemed aligned with our environment.
LTP: What did your life look like before you and Hudson came together to create Plant People?
GK: I was the chef director of culinary innovation at a plant-based restaurant group in NYC. Hudson was operating a branding firm and supporting his coffee company. We had been wanting to work together for years because of our complementary skillsets and love of plant-based products. We were on a hike and the idea of Plant People just clicked!
LTP: From inception to production, what makes Plant People so unique?
GK: Hudson and I were introduced as potential roommates by a mutual colleague. We didn’t end up living together, but our bubbles overlapped. We became friends over a few years and would see each other once in awhile at parties or events. We both ended up going upstate on a nature workshop at our friend's house. We ended up sharing our experiences and upbringings and relationships with plants. Out in nature, we had the eureka moment about starting a company like Plant People. The rest is history.
In short, our commitment to people and the planet is what differentiates us. Our company is not a CBD company, but rather one that celebrates all plants, mushrooms and herbal modalities. We utilize herbs from ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and beyond. We look back to look forward, combining the best of all practices to solve the issues we face today.
We grow unique plant genetics for particular solutions with regenerative agriculture too. We optimize the expression of the plant through a variety of extraction techniques and then amplify by calling on all of the other herbal modalities across the world. This results is products that are targeted for specific solutions—not a one-size-fits-all.
We also plant a tree for every product we sell. We don't use plastic in the supply chain. We power all facilities with wind. We support policy organizations for building an equitable industry.
LTP: Yes! You’ve partnered with American Forests, planting a tree for every product sold. Why was this important for you to do?
GK: Like all natural cycles, we give back for everything we take—to the earth to our communities and to the planet. Splicing impact into the DNA of our company is non-negotiable. This is a simple token of our appreciation to the plant that provides us with opportunity to exist, create, nourish and thrive. We hope to pay it forward, so that we can build a better future for everyone.
LTP: In the midst of this health crisis, what lessons have you learned that you carry with you after life returns to some version of normal?
GK: I have reconnected with the values that I have aimed to embody my whole life, which is the foundation of Plant People: to prioritize health, maintain balance, use less, share more, advocate for those who are in need, examine the injustice that exists right under our noses and trust that nature has the answers.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
GK: Being Healthy. Sun on my face, eyes closed and my new favorite song playing. A hot bowl of soup on a cold day next to a fire. A long hug from a family member or friend. Walking down a street I have never walked before and receiving a genuine smile from a passerby. Jumping into the ocean after I get too hot in the sun. Eating watermelon or papaya with a lime and a spoon.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
GK: To me, "Live The Process” means to connect with ourselves—to be patient and kind in our progress, in our responses and in our actions. The present moment is truly all we have and staying in it is certainly something I am working towards every day. It means to accept what is and to trust in my resilience and my strength—and to step into that power.