So, do you look for specific chefs?
Yes. At one point, we were talking to several chefs. We started with David Chang at Momofuku Nishi in New York and he was one of the first chefs to ever try the burger. He famously said in a New Yorker interview that he had previously wanted to remove all vegetarian dishes from the menu until he tried the Impossible Burger and thought it was so delicious that it reversed his stance on plant-based menu options. We also talked to some folks like Michael Simon and Chris Cosentino (The Meat Guy). These guys have tattoos of meat on their bodies and are really unapologetic meat loving chefs who love the taste of meat, cooking it, everything, and they were blown away by the Impossible Burger.
As meat lovers, how open were the chefs in the beginning?
These were chefs who loved the art and experience of cooking, as well as the discovery element behind sourcing new ingredients. So, Impossible Foods came along with this product that fuses new technology, food science, and ingredients that you could find in nature in a new way. It was the sensory experience of cooking it in the pan when you get the sizzle, caramelization, and meat smells that blew away chefs who had never seen plant-based meat that cooked quite like that.
From these guys, we have earned what we call “culinary credibility”, because the chefs truly enjoy the taste of our product and the whole experience. We see culinary credibility as being inclusive of any type of food experience, so we started with acclaimed chefs and then slowly moved into the food service side and then the home cook retail side.
You went further down the pyramid from independent to system gastronomy by going to White Castle, right?
Yes, exactly. Our first QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) was White Castle in 2018, which was the Impossible Slider. The following year, we launched nationally with Burger King as the Impossible Whopper. We wanted to grow the business and scale our production. Our overall goal even before we started working with chefs was to make the product available everywhere and make it ubiquitous. That’s why we entered retail at the end of 2019.