Going gourmet at raw food cooking school


"It is an art form and it takes a lot of research and a lot of unique tools," Matthew Kenney, owner of Matthew Kenney Culinary.

Kenney is talking about the effort it takes to make raw food taste "five star."

"We do all things plant-based and we take an innovative approach to preparing plant-based cuisine at a low temperature to preserve enzymes and nutrients," said Kenney.

Eliminating animal products from the plate takes a lot of time, and techniques like soaking nuts and dehydrating produce takes skill, patience and quite a few fancy gadgets.

"We use thermal immersion to cook under vacuum-seal pressure at low temperatures," said Kenney.

Along with an anti-griddle, dehydrator, pacho jet, even an ultrasonic homogenizer.

All of this is done at newly opened Matthew Kenney Culinary at the Santa Monica Place, an accredited raw cooking, or rather "non-cooking," school.

"Our month-long classes, we have fundamentals of raw cuisine. It's 120 course hours. It's a four-week course. Level two is advanced raw techniques," said Kenney.

Sanitation principles, food safety and farmers market visits are all a part of the curriculum.

Wednesday's lesson? Chocolate chip cookies, which utilized two raw food favorite tools: a high-speed blender and food processor.

By graduation students will be able to create a three-course meal using techniques that are foreign to most chefs.

"Their creativity, whatever is in their mind, whatever they're dreaming up, we want them to have the tools and the experience to prepare it," said Kenney.

Kenney knows his stuff. He's a twice-nominated James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef. But he says students and staff all share ideas on how to earn raves on raw food, like dishes from M.A.K.E., Kenney's restaurant adjacent to the school.

"Dumplings made from a young Thai coconut filled with kim chee and cashew," said Kenney. "We do an heirloom tomato lasagna with a pistachio pesto and macadamia ricotta."

Even red beet gnocchi.

Raw food school isn't inexpensive. A month-long class runs more than $5,000. But there's an intensive weekend session that's about $700.

For those on a budget, there's a $4 iPad app called "Everyday Raw Express," plus nine cookbooks and free recipes online.

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