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MBThey say that behind every great man is a great woman. For raw food pioneer and celebrity chef Matthew Kenney, you could say that woman (in the professional sense) was Meredith Baird.

Baird, who studied at the Living Light Culinary Institute in Fort Bragg in 2006, started working with Kenney in 2009.

Since then, she’s been extremely involved in developing recipes for five out of six of his books, helped him launch his Los Angeles restaurant MAKE and his culinary training program, and even acted as his creative director—until she decided it was time to fly (or cook) solo.

“I’m excited to embrace the adventure of being on my own,” says Baird, who’s now making that happen with her first cookbook (that features just her name on the cover), Coconut Kitchen, out on June 1.

“I learned so much from him on how to make food beautiful and presentable. But as a woman, you have a slightly different perspective,” she says. “The less time you can spend in the kitchen, the better. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect cook, have the perfect body, be the perfect mom…all of that can get really stressful. With raw food, some of the recipes aren’t realistic. I want to teach people how to make raw food in a gourmet way, but simplified.”

coconut kitchenWhich is why she’s starting with coconut, which she says is the most versatile, multitasking ingredient.

“I use it for everything,” Baird says. “The jar of coconut oil goes from the kitchen, to the bathroom medicine cabinet, to wherever. What we eat gets reflected on our exterior. Coconut is the perfect example of a beautifying food, internally and externally.”

How does that play out on the page? Coconut Kitchen is filled with super simple raw food and beauty recipes that take little time or training. Like a coconut ceviche with thinly sliced coconut, avocado, olive oil, and spices (yum!), which Baird calls “the type of thing you don’t think to do but can be so amazing.”

With her kitchen skills, pedigree, and fits-your-life approach, we can’t wait to see what she whips up next. —Jamie McKillop

For more information, visit meredithbaird.com and check out Coconut Kitchen