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Matthew Kenney :: An Interview + A Recipe + Book Giveaway

Posted Oct 14 2008 4:11am

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Before this interview, I knew a little bit about Matthew Kenney, that he is a restaurateur, a professional chef with a focus on raw foods, caterer, and an author of several recipe books. However, after learning more about him, I found him to be fascinating and inspiring.

Matthew is a creative powerhouse fueled by his passion. The words, healthy, sustainable, and modern sum up his style and approach to his work, and this clearly reflects in the way he deliciously executes a dish, in his series of books, and his websites, Matthew Kenney Cuisine and Matthew Kenney Lifestyle.

I was fortunate to catch up with Matthew and I’m grateful he was able to take the time to answer some of my questions. In this interview we learn what inspires him as a chef, among other interesting things, and he has generously offered one of his recipes from his forthcoming book “Entertaining In The Raw”.

RE: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you become interested in raw food?

MK: After college, I found that I had a passion for food and the restaurant business in general. Instead of attending law school, I enrolled in The French Culinary Institute instead. Over the next several years, I became a chef and opened several restaurants. During that time, I found my own preferences, both as a chef and on a personal level, to be leaning toward a plant based diet. When a friend invited me to a raw food restaurant as his guest, it opened a new world for me and from that day on, my primary focus has been raw food.

RE: Who inspires you as a chef and why?

MK: Artists of all types inspire me. I read a lot, visit museums, see foreign films and take in whatever I can. Rudolf Nureyev, for example, was such a driven artist in his field, simply reading about his career energizes my approach to creating unique food. A few months ago, I saw Phillip Glass’s satyagraha at the metropolitan opera - the thought and execution were so fluid, which is something I try to achieve as a chef.

RE: You are in the process of opening a raw restaurant in Orlando, Florida called Café 118? How is it going? When will it open?

MK: We have been doing menu development and recipe testing for the past couple of weeks. Our chef, Ray, has really developed a nice touch with this style of cuisine and we feel very supported by a large vegetarian community. It should open before the end of October, but with restaurant openings, one never knows.

RE: Tell us one of your most amusing behind-the-scenes kitchen stories.

MK: Without question, seeing one of my co-worker’s pants catch on fire (fortunately, he didn’t).

RE: What raw food or dish has become a staple in your diet?

MK: I never stop craving avocado - I just open them up, remove the pit and fill them with hemp seeds, lime juice and sea salt.

RE: When shopping for fresh produce, what is the most unusual fruit or vegetable you have discovered? Where you inspired to prepare it, and if so how?

MK: I’m not sure its unusual, but the most unique are the many varieties of beets I found in Maine last summer - they were white, golden, candy striped, red…just beautiful. I served them thinly sliced with a puree of fava beans with pistachio oil.

RE: What is your favorite raw dessert to make?

MK: I made it yesterday - Mango Macaroon Cheesecake.

RE: All of the recipes in your latest book “Everyday Raw” look and sound delicious, and there are more wonderful raw food recipes on the way. Entertaining in the Raw is schedule to release Spring 2009. Can you share one of your favorite recipes from this book?

*** From the upcoming book Entertaining in the Raw by Matthew Kenney (www.matthewkenneycuisine.com).
Reprinted by arrangement with Matthew Kenney.
Publisher, Gibbs Smith (www.gibbs-smith.com). Copyright (c) 2009.

Basil Black Pepper Wrappers, Macadamia Cheese, Avocado and Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4–6

Coconut Wrappers with Basil

4 cups young coconut meat
¼ cup spinach juice
1 cup fresh basil leaves
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Blend all ingredients except black pepper until very smooth. Spread very thin on dehydrator Teflex sheets, sprinkle with the black pepper & dehydrate 3-4 hours. Remove from Teflex and trim edges. Cut in 9 squares and reserve. They hold best between wax paper, and kept cool.

Macadamia Cheese

2 cups macadamia nuts, soaked 1-2 hours
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
¾ teaspoon salt

Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth – the texture should be similar to ricotta cheese. Add more lemon or salt if necessary. If too thick, add a touch of water while processing.

Dried Cherry Tomatoes

1 cup ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
Pinch of salt
Olive oil

Toss the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and salt, and spread on dehydrator screens, for 3-4 hours. Remove and set aside at room temperature.

Assembly

Basil leaves
1 avocado, halved, pitted and thinly sliced

Place the basil wrappers flat on a work surface. Put 1 teaspoon of macadamia cheese just off center of each one, and top with avocado, then tomatoes and a fresh basil leaf. Lightly wet two of the opposite corners with a touch of water and roll them from one side, with the corner just reaching over filling. Roll the other corner over that, forming a boat shape. Press tightly so that they remain together.

RE: What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets?

MK: I’m a minimalist with equipment but I’m lost without my Vita-mix.

RE: What one word would you use to describe yourself?

MK: Analytical

RE: If you could be or do anything else – what?

MK: I’d love to be an environmental artist.

RE: What’s the one thing about you few people know?

MK: These days, that I’ve become a nature person - I’m most comfortable among the trees and water, far away from cities.

RE: You have an impressive and exciting career in the field of raw foods. What other project(s) is/are coming down the pipeline?

MK: I’m very fortunate to be working on a number of interesting projects - aside from cafe 118’s opening, Freefoods, which I am a partner in, is opening a second location in New York this year, and I’m about to leave for Madrid for work related to a project I helped open last may. I’m developing a wine product with partners and a brand of raw chocolate in 2009. As far as writing, I’m about to release entertaining in the raw in early 2009 and just started writing my next book, everyday raw desserts….and I almost forgot, I’m launching a small online magazine, Matthew Kenney lifestyle, tomorrow!

RE: Last, but not least, is there any advice you’d like to share with aspiring raw chefs and those of us who love to prepare raw food at home?

MK: My advice for this is always the same - buy the best ingredients you can find and prepare them simply when busy, and thoughtfully when you have the time to do something special. Raw food preparation is a big commitment, so it’s obviously very important to prepare what inspires you to eat.

* * *

It was such a delight to work with Matthew and fun to hear of all the exciting progress he is making in his career. I thank Matthew for taking the time out from his busy schedule to do this interview.

* * *

THE GIVEAWAY

This is the part I love. Raw Epicurean is giving away 3 of Matthew Kenney’s raw recipe books. This means three people have a chance to win one of these books (one entry and one book per person):

Raw Food Real World
Everyday Raw
Entertaining In The Raw

To enter to win, answer the question below and list in order of preference which of Matthew’s books you prefer.

Tell us one of your most amusing kitchen stories?

On Wednesday, October 15th, I will use a random number generator to pick the three lucky winners. The winning participants name will be announced in the right sidebar, under Announcements.

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