This Traveling Chef's Exotic Cooking Show Changed the Game

May 13, 2019

On his television show No Kitchen Required, celebrated Chef Kanye Raymond gives a whole new definition to the term ‘outdoor kitchen.’ When he sees a whale in the ocean, Kayne Raymond doesn’t grab a camera. He jumps in the water. “The captain and I both dove in,” says Raymond, reminiscing about a humpback whale he saw earlier this year. “I’m always jumping in to things, even if it scares me. I just don’t think about it. I have plenty of fears but I have a lot of confidence. When you have a little bit of fear, you get that rush. That’s why I’m a good chef. I feed off it.”

Good chef is an understatement. Midway through the airing of his first television series, No Kitchen Required on BBC, Raymond has just spent 13 weeks filming the reality television show on various islands and in exotic countries around the world. A bit like Survivor-meets-Top Chef, he and veteran chefs Michael Psilakis and Madison Cowan traveled to far-flung locales where they were celebrated by tribesmen and women who they turned around and cooked for the next day. This is no “stocked pantry, mystery ingredient” affair. Part of the challenge was not just cooking traditional fare—with a personal twist, of course—but in procuring the ingredients. And sometimes those ingredients were jungle rodents or other critters.

Meant to be a grueling, boundary-pushing experience, it was something else for Raymond. (Of course it was. Spend five minutes talking to him and it’s easy to see Chef Kayne has a fairly different perspective on life.) Having spent the past five years helping his wife, Linda, beat cancer; raising their daughter, Miela; as well as working full time as a private chef, Raymond was flat-out spent and ready to shake things up.

“It’s been super, super tough for everybody in the whole family,” he explains, talking about Linda’s fight. “But this show—it was great going away because I was drained. I used it as a break to go and find who I was again, so I absolutely flourished.”

The chefs knew vaguely where they’d be heading when they committed to the show, though nothing specific. Everyone received a packet of basic information on local customs before they rolled into the villages, a basic summation of what was and wasn’t acceptable behavior. But other than that, Raymond didn’t study up.

“For me, it was better to go with an open heart, open arms. To just go and learn,” he says. “I think if I’d read up on a lot of stuff, it wouldn’t have gone so well. If you don’t have preconceived notions of how it’s going to work or what it’s supposed to be, then you can just enjoy how it happens.”

He admits it’s a sentiment that translates to the rest of his life. To wit: If you want to go by the book, it probably doesn’t include starting a relationship with a woman who’s in the middle of chemotherapy treatments. He was nervous before his first date with Linda, putting on his best shirt to spruce himself up. He had only seen her at work in her work clothes. When she pulled up in her Barracuda muscle car, wigless and flaunting her tattoos, he looked up to the sky, laughed, took off the fussy shirt and climbed into her car. He was home. They’ve been together ever since.

“I’m surrounded by powerful women,” he admits. Raymond includes his mother in that statement. A single mom, she raised her kids with support and patience—though she did find it irritating that as soon as she would put a plate of food in front of her son, he would lean over and sniff it deeply. To his mom, it looked like bad manners, though all has been revealed now.

Raymond has been on the move since he was 19. Raised in Auckland, New Zealand, he lit out for Australia before cooking his way through Southeast Asia and Europe. He ended up in California when some private clients fell in love with him on their boat in the Caribbean and brought him home with them. He now lives in San Francisco. “I love this city—the ocean, the diversity. It reminds me of Auckland,” he says. Though he digs the road and easily can spend three hours in a coffee shop chatting with whomever walks by, he’s glad to be home for a while.

“The food thing’s easy—I can chef with my eyes closed,” he says. “But I won’t ever be able to watch my daughter take her first steps again. I won’t always be able to watch her being 5. That’s all important stuff, too. It’s about balance, about getting the balance right.”

Miela takes after her father: She jumps off of whatever presents itself, and though she’s a great swimmer (he’s an avid surfer), she doesn’t like cold water, period. “We like going places as a family,” he explains. “Family time is so important.”