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The Power List
Amanda Cohen Dirt Candy Lekka Burger Power List 2020
Amanda Cohen is the chef and owner at Dirt Candy and Lekka Burger.

Chef Amanda Cohen goes low-tech to innovate with vegetables at her new plant-based restaurant Lekka Burger

Meet the technology innovators on Nation's Restaurant News' 2020 Power List

Amanda Cohen has been doing things her own way since she opened Dirt Candy, an all-vegetable fine-dining restaurant, 12 years ago, and she’s doing it again with Lekka Burger — a vegan restaurant in New York City she has opened in partnership with sustainability advocate Andrea Kerzner.

As the whole foodservice world seems to be jumping on the bandwagon of introducing high-tech plant-based burgers meant to taste like meat, Cohen’s is unapologetically made from ordinary produce, including portobello mushrooms, cannellini beans and chile, plus other ingredients Cohen says you can find in any home kitchen. The imitation cheese sauce on her cheeseburger and cheese fries is made from butter beans.


Cohen has made a career out of highlighting straightforward vegetables. Rather than banging the drum of local, seasonal and sustainable produce, she has taught her customers that the onions, peppers, carrots and other regular vegetables you can buy at any supermarket are delicious.

She has also taught restaurant operators that you can do away with tipping, pay your staff a living wage and still be profitable — a move she made in early 2015, months before Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality group announced it was making a similar move. And she taught food media in blistering essays to stop making excuses for not writing more about women chefs unless they were being sexually harassed, even providing a list of more than 60 females in New York City who were worth covering. 

You can expect Cohen to continue blazing new trails in the years to come.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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