The Raw Foods Evolution

Monday, May 22, 2006

Matthew Kenney Raw Foods Interview

In February I conducted an interview with raw foods chef Matthew Kenney. The interview starts around 45 minutes into the audio so you can fast forward to this point.

Matthew's recipes are incredible and I have had great success preparing them for potlucks. Below is a neat article about Matthew's new business.

In the raw: Matthew Kenney's vegetable cuisine comes to Darien

By Meghan Flynn

Mention vegetarian dishes and labels such as rabbit food, bland or not satisfying often come to mind. But if one chef has his way, gourmet will be the new vegetarian mindset.

"People think of vegetarian food as side dishes trying to be a meal," says Chef Matthew Kenney, who just opened a Blue/Green juice cafe in Darien.

"Vegetarian food has gotten a bad rap because many times it is prepared by people who are not culinary professionals. I think like a chef. What influences me is twofold. I like to eat food that is good for me and good for the environment. And I do not like to do things that have already been done by someone else. I like to do it better."

"I am a chef who has tried everything," says Kenney. "You name it -- I have prepared and eaten it. Yet what has fulfilled me the most is eating vegetarian, mostly raw. It has changed my life."

Together with his romantic partner at the time, fellow French Culinary Institute graduate Sarma Melngailis, he opened Pure Food and Wine in 2004. This upscale, raw, vegan restaurant in the Gramercy Park area of New York City quickly drew celebrity clientele and critical acclaim for signature dishes such as lasagna layered with paper-thin slices of zucchini, fresh heirloom tomatoes and dollops of "ricotta cheese," made from pine nuts and pistachio pesto.

Just as his star status was rising again, Kenney had another, very public setback as his personal and professional breakup with Melngailis played out on the pages of the New York Post's Page Six, which labeled them the "Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston of the New York restaurant world." The timing could not have been worse, as the couple was just launching their recipe and lifestyle book titled, "Raw Food, Real World."

Kenney, now 41, says that since switching to a raw foods lifestyle, he has more energy, needs less sleep and has renewed passion as a chef. Less than a year after leaving Pure Food and Wine, Kenney has launched Organic Umbrella, an environmentally friendly sustainable lifestyle company that has sprouted several business ventures that promote organic living, consisting of restaurants (the newest, JivamukTea, a vegan cafe at Jivamukti Yoga's Union Square location, opened May 1), Blue/Green juice cafes, raw food cooking classes and a line of prepared foods sold at retail.

Kenney's kitchen is The Plant, a bustling 4,000-square-foot commissary in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn that supplies Blue/Green cafes with their to-go foods, offers weekly classes in raw food cooking and holds hip Friday night four-course dinners that test new recipes.

Says Kenney: "I created The Plant as a hub of creative energy for the raw food community, a place for people to hang out. My goal is to expand Blue /Green as well as to make the products we sell more widely available. The Plant is the engine that drives these new ventures."

Read more about Matthew Kenney's raw food restaurants.


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