Matthew Kenney is a wanted man. As a classically trained chef and recognized leader in the world of "raw cuisine" he is the go-to guy for any budding chef or health guru wanting to change our meat-obsessed world and live a healthier lifestyle.
He founded Pure Food and Wine in New York, the world's first fine dining raw restaurant, before selling his share to his partner. He went on to pen 10 cookbooks, and open three more restaurants in Santa Monica, California and Miami as well as a culinary raw food school. In 2013 he will launch the world's first classically structured online course focused on raw cuisine.
He has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef award twice, plus won Food & Wine's Best New Chef.
What are the biggest myths about raw food?
Often what comes to mind when people think of raw cuisine is that it's unfinished and not prepared. To the contrary, we're actually fully preparing raw-food dishes, but we do it in a way that enhances the inherent qualities of the food itself. We'll use a host of cooking methods - such as thermal immersion, smoking, and emulsification - to create recipes so that guests don't feel like they're eating something that is perceived as unfinished.
I believe there should not be a gap between maintaining good health and enjoying beautiful and delicious food. My philosophy is really about highlighting not only the benefits, but also the pleasures of a well-prepared, plant-based diet. Once our palates are trained to enjoy this style of food it becomes a source of pleasure as well as health.
How long have you been living 'raw'?
I adopted a plant-based lifestyle about 10 years ago when I was living and working in New York. I had developed many upscale restaurants as a classically trained chef and a friend of mine invited me to a raw restaurant where I experienced people who were enjoying the benefits of a raw lifestyle for the first time. This fueled my desire to change the way people feel about healthy food through beautiful and contemporary raw cuisine.
How has raw living changed your life?
Having grown up on the coast of Maine, I consider myself an avid outdoorsman, and adopting a plant-based raw lifestyle has certainly afforded me the ability to maintain an active lifestyle with the same quick recovery that I enjoyed in my younger days. My lifestyle has also sustained my connection to nature and seasonality, which has brought a sort of peace to my life.
Did you eat meat as a child?
I would both consume meat and hunt animals as a child. However, I was always inspired by health and wellness. My diet now is very simple - high in healthy fats such as avocado and coconut, heavy on salads, dark leafy greens and I enjoy raw chocolate often.
Why do you think the world is more open to raw food now than ever before?
There is certainly an international demand and interest in raw cuisine. Our students in both our onsite and online academies come from all over the world and we frequently receive inquiries from people wanting private chefs internationally or those needing consulting services for opening a raw food business in other parts of the world.
How can people incorporate raw food into their lives and what benefits would they receive?
A really easy way to add raw foods into your diet is through juices and smoothies. Starting your day with something fresh gives me a boost of energy and helps me make cleaner food choices as the day passes. We developed Everyday Raw Express (both the book and the iPad application) for those who want to enjoy raw foods but don't have tons of time to commit to it.
What has been the reaction to your raw fine dining?
We have had a wonderful response to our opening of M.A.K.E. Restaurant in Santa Monica. Most of our regulars are not raw foodists but people who just enjoy fine dining and high-quality cuisine. First-time guests usually arrive sceptical and leave satisfied.
What is next for you?
We started building The White Lotus with our partners in Miami. The project in Miami will include a restaurant as well as a culinary academy. We will also be expanding our online curriculum and developing our strategic partnerships, private chef placements, consulting and other areas of the business. We feel like in order to change the way people think about food, we have to remain involved in many areas. Our 10th and 11th books will also be released this year. Next year we are introducing a high-end line of products to the market, as well as beginning to look at international opportunities.