Chef Matthew Padilla joined the True Food Kitchen team last year as culinary innovation director; now, he’s leading the NextGen Casual brand through its largest menu revamp in company history. While the culinary team typically makes four to eight menu changes per season, the wellness-forward chain debuted its new spring menu boasting more than 30 new items including burgers, pizzas, bowls, sandwiches, and more.
“This latest menu update was a collective effort the True Food Kitchen team saw as a necessary step to continue pushing the brand forward,” Padilla says. “We really wanted to create not only just a larger number of seasonal offerings, but also future mainstays.”
A focus on integrating seasonal and sustainably-sourced ingredients was paramount for the menu overhaul, with a goal to transform nostalgic comfort foods into nutritious (but still indulgent) dishes. Ingredients like asparagus, favas, artichokes, and other spring ingredients coming into season made April the perfect time to roll out the new menu items, Padilla notes. “We are completely fresh ingredient and seasonally driven as a brand. I like to describe it as, the bounty and produce are blossoming, so what better time for us to blossom as a brand,” he says.
Founded by integrative medicine doctor Andrew Weil 15 years ago, 43-unit True Food Kitchen aims to make food that “can make you feel as great as it tastes.” The brand also hopes the new menu will appeal to a broader audience and entice more consumers’ appetites as it continues on its growth path across the U.S.
During the new menu development process, Padilla and his team looked at marketing trends, guest feedback, and in some cases, targeted specific dishes to bring back or evolve. “For other dishes, the creativity flows once we get into the kitchen. It’s a great mixture of thoughtful planning and culinary innovation. It’s an incredibly fun process,” he says.
In a recent interview with FSR, True Food Kitchen’s newly-appointed CEO John Williams said the brand was about to share some exciting updates—clearly hinting at this announcement.
“As CEO, I will prioritize supporting True Food Kitchen’s mission of inspiring more people to eat better, feel better and live better while driving growth and expansion for the business throughout the country,” Williams told FSR. “I’m excited to contribute meaningfully to the brand’s evolution, connecting with both our team and the loyal fan base they’ve built. I’m looking forward to finding new ways to bring True Food to as many people in as many ways as possible across the country.”
The brand’s new spring menu showcases the following:
Four new sharable starters, including a Seasonal Burrata with in-season artichoke, asparagus, fava beans, caramelized onion vinaigrette and grilled bread
The Farmers Market Crudités featuring hatch chile ranch and pistachio muhammara dip served with vegetables
Two new globally-inspired bowls, including the Sonoran Bowl with Anasazi beans, brown rice and quinoa topped with cotija, avocado, Peruvian pepper sauce and charred scallion salsa verde
Two new seasonal salads like the Kale Cobb Salad with roasted red pepper, avocado, olive, Point Reyes blue cheese, cherry tomato, asparagus and hatch chile ranch
Heartier entrees including four new burgers and sandwiches like the Peruvian Grass-fed Burger with caramelized onion, Peruvian pepper sauce, a Vital Farms fried egg and Point Reyes blue cheese
A Mediterranean Chicken Sandwich with artichoke, pistachio muhammara, feta and organic arugula
Two new pizzas including a seasonal Spinach & Mushroom Pizza with roasted mushrooms, lemon almond ricotta and caramelized onion
Two bright, new flavorful desserts, including The Pink Lime Tart with ube, a Marcona almond-date crust, and coconut whipped cream; and seasonal Strawberry Cake & Ice Cream with macerated strawberry, ricotta frosting and vanilla ice cream
A refreshed brunch menu of elevated offerings includes the Bison Sausage Breakfast Pizza with organic DiNapoli tomato sauce, charred scallion salsa verde, mozzarella, cotija, jalapeño and a Vital Farms pasture-raised fried egg
Additionally, True Food Kitchen’s head mixologist and vice president of food and beverage, Jon Augustin, led a revamp of the chain’s beverage program with reimagined scratch-made cocktails, refreshers, and teas. New offerings include a Strawberry Mojito with Don Q Cristal rum, Combier Rose, lime and yuzu; and a Jet Liner with Old Grand-dad bourbon, Aperol and lemon. Plus, the Pink Lemonade with dragon fruit and lemon, and the Matcha Horchata with oat milk, cinnamon, matcha, and vanilla, harken back to nostalgic flavors from childhood.
Prior to joining True Food Kitchen in February 2022, Padilla worked in executive chef roles at Relais & Châteaux properties including The Little Nell, The Inn at Dos Brisas, and most recently The White Barn Inn. Padilla also served as a stagiaire at three-Michelin-star restaurant Noma, which topped the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants five times, and announced in January it was shutting down after 20 years at the end of 2024 to reinvent its model.