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Cooking Has No Place In Chef's Haven For Health

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CORTE MADERA, Calif. -- Calling Roxanne Klein's home a house is a bit like trying to pass off a sequoia as a humble tree.

Nestled on 14 hilltop acres and shrouded in primitive growth, Casa Klein is better described as an eight-years-in-the-making ode to twin pillars of Northern California living: healthy eating and environmental sustainability.

''It's a special place,'' says Klein, 38, blond and yoga-fit, while lounging in her expansive and spotless kitchen.

Of all the rooms, this one holds a special appeal for Klein, who is head chef and co-founder (with her husband, Michael) of Roxanne's, a raw-food restaurant in nearby Larkspur, just north of San Francisco.

Though the Kleins embrace many Eastern practices, from meditation to exercise, their home is more of a Mediterranean blend, with a generous use of wood and glass. Golden-hued walls soar to meet high ceilings and rammed-earth pillars serve as the home's skeleton.

Art also plays a leading role here: On one end of the kitchen is a floor-to-ceiling slab of black rock, whose rippled surface is perpetually covered by falling water.

Minimalism and order rules. Sherlock Holmes would have a tough time detecting signs of daily use. Endless gleaming counters are interrupted only by a few baskets of organic produce from the Kleins' 3-acre garden.

''Oh, I 'cook' here every night,'' Klein insists with a smile. ''It can get quite messy.''

Though in this kitchen, things never get terribly hot. Aside from the occasional make-your-own-pizza party, home menus often echo the fare served at vegetable-worshiping Roxanne's, where nothing is subjected to temperatures exceeding 118 degrees (beyond which life-enriching enzymes start dying).

The Kleins were urged to ''GO RAW'' (the license plate of their black Mercedes M-Class) during a Thai vacation with two friends, Woody Harrelson and the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir. The former was a raw devotee who thought his vegan friends just had to take the next step.

''Woody said, 'Try it for a month.' I was a trained chef and wasn't sure I was interested. But we went for it,'' Klein says.

On the heels of the restaurant's success (tables are booked months ahead) comes Raw, a cookbook co-written with Charlie Trotter.

''Roxanne and Michael took a big chance, and they've rattled the establishment,'' Trotter says. ''I think that, over time, more and more chefs will have to incorporate raw dishes into their menus.''

Padding around her home in bare feet, faded jeans and a tank top, Klein doesn't seem flustered by her success.

''We just wanted to bring how Michael and I experience food to the community,'' she says.

Indeed, when the blended Klein clan -- which includes four children (ages 6 to 18) -- gathers for dinner, they first stop by the garden ''to pick what they'd like in their salad that night,'' she says.

Lately, however, there has been a little cheating going on. One of Klein's two Sub-Zero refrigerators is stocked with fare from the restaurant's new ''to go'' annex. Which might explain why the chef's home kitchen is magazine-spread perfect, glass sparkling and the nearest crumb somewhere on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Dominating the room is an island that more closely resembles a continent. It easily stretches 8-by-16 feet, with a lonely sink in one corner. The surface (along with the floor) is limestone, with hidden outlets. ''It's perfect for when I have my staff over to try out new recipes,'' Klein says. It also doubles as a casual dinner table for the family of six ''plus the inevitable friends who come over.''

Surrounding the island on three sides is more counter space, interrupted by a massive professional-grade eight-burner Wolf range, topped by a stainless-steel hood. Klein concedes it was ordered well before the couple's passion for raw food kicked in, ''but I tell you, if you need to boil water, that's your stove. Two minutes, tops.''

Equipment that does say ''raw'' is also on hand.

That includes a Champion juicer (''for homogenizing nuts and turning them into cheese,'' she says); a Dremax vegetable slicer from Japan (''It's how sushi chefs cheat''); a Blendtec blender (''It pulverizes any fruit''); and something mysterious called a Pacojet, a demon blade that spins at wildly high speeds (''It can turn olive oil into a spread in seconds'').

Tucked just off the kitchen are a pair of rooms every home chef will drool over: One houses two dishwashers (one commercial, for fast turnaround times); the other has a walk-in freezer and surplus fridge.

''It's handy,'' Klein says with typical understatement.

But perhaps the most high-tech splurge of all is hidden in one of dozens of elegantly faced drawers. Slide it open and a computer panel pops up; with a touch of the screen, you can pipe almost any song ever recorded into any of the home's rooms.

(This comes courtesy of Michael, a long-retired computer software guru and music fanatic. In fact, the late concert promoter Bill Graham once lived on this spot; only the pool remains.)

What isn't stone or glass in the kitchen is wood, including a bamboo cutting board (30% harder than maple and grows back in only three years), pine drawers and sustainably harvested cherry wall cabinets (which feature glass fronts, the better to show off colorful china the couple recently bought in Siena, Italy).

''I was shooting for a Moroccan theme for the kitchen, but it didn't work out that way,'' Klein says. The room was being built just when she was cloistered in her soon-to-open restaurant. ''I'd like to make some adjustments, so I'm sure it'll just keep evolving and change.''

The kitchen may yet change, but don't count on Klein altering her eating habits.

Having offered a guest a drink, she reaches not into the fridge but to the counter, where she grabs a white Thai coconut, hacks a hole into its top with a cleaver, slips in a straw and hands over the beverage.

''Way better than water,'' she says, flashing the smile of a true believer.

Continued on

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