Bleeding veggie burger company Impossible Foods — a Silicon Valley darling that’s raised more than $150 million from big shot investors like Bill Gates — has found its first restaurant to actually serve its plant-based, lab-derived meat: Momofuku Nishi. Founder and biochemist Patrick Brown started the company back in 2011 to create veggie-based burgers that "bleed," and tomorrow, July 27, it will finally debut to the public at Nishi, as a partnership between Brown and Momofuku emperor David Chang.
The Momofuku chef actually heard about the burger about a year ago and decided to seek it out. Chang explains:
I was genuinely blown away when I tasted the burger....The Impossible Foods team has discovered how to re-engineer what makes beef taste like beef. We're always looking to support people who are making the best products in the best ways possible and to me, the Impossible Burger is one more example. First and foremost, we think this makes a delicious burger.
Impossible Foods competitor Beyond Burger started selling its bleeding veggie patties at a Colorado Whole Foods earlier this year, and the location sold out within the first hour. But when Nishi starts offering the Impossible Burger, it will be the first time that you can order a bleeding veggie burger in a restaurant. They plan to serve it in more restaurants, including in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and patties will be available in grocery stores eventually as well.
It arrives to Nishi just as ground beef does, and it still needs to be refrigerated to maintain its quality, Brown says. Chang adds that the kitchen will be treating it just like they treat any other ingredient. Impossible Foods is selling it for about the price of organic beef, though Brown says they hope to eventually bring the price down to mass market levels as the company grows.
The scientist says it’s all part of an effort to reduce the environmental impact from eating meat. Brown and a team of researchers spent some $80 million over the last five years developing the burger by isolating the aspects of meat that make it taste like meat. Even though scientists created the Impossible Burger, all of the ingredients come from plants — including water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, and "natural flavors." The key ingredient to getting that meat look is "heme," a molecule found in animals but less prevalent in plants.
Brown adds that most of the ingredients in the burger — from potato protein to xanthan gum — can be found in many restaurant kitchens. While Chang's version of the burger sports a thin patty, diners can order a thicker version as they order a regular burger: rare, medium rare, etc. "Everyone has their own idea of what a great burger tastes like," Brown says. "We knew that in order for this to be successful as a replacement for ground beef, we had to deliver all those same properties for consumers, so they could make their choice."
Early word about the taste of the Impossible Burger is positive. Mark Bittman, a food writer and vegetable evangelist, said it was "very impressive," and Ezra Klein of Vox.com called it "life-changing." Chang remarked: "It was something I knew I had to get behind."