Restaurateur and renowned chef Spike Mendelsohn will be the keynote on Day 2 of the Plant Based World Expo taking place Friday, September 9, 2022. WholeFoods Magazine talked to Chef Spike about his passion for plant-based.
Born in Montreal, Chef Spike grew up in the restaurant business and became classically trained in French and Vietnamese cuisine. After appearing on the popular TV food reality show, Top Chef, he set up shop in the D.C. area and has remained there ever since.
Over the past three to four years, Chef Spike has helped create two startup brands focused on healthy plant-based fare. He remembers trying the Beyond Meat Burger for the first time, and how that experience helped build his burger joint, PLNT Burger.
“I’ve always thought vegetables are very important and have always tried to highlight them, and then I met my co-founder Seth Goldman at a panel and he introduced a Beyond Meat burger to me,” Chef Spike shares. “In a joking way he said, ‘Hey why don’t you take these home. I heard you’re the burger king, and tell me what you think of them.’ He didn’t know that my wife Cody is actually vegan and we’ve always had a hard time with the burger. I cooked them up and my mind was blown. Usually, you laugh because it’s a vegan burger. The options weren’t there and I think once I tasted that burger, it got me super excited.”
Plant-Based Turning Point
“It was the point in my career where I was plateauing and trying to figure out what’s next,” Chef Spike explains. “What’s my new disruption? What’s my new trend? How can I take a little bit of everything I do and put it in this one area? The Beyond Meat burger did that for me, and that relationship with Seth was born.”
After that first introduction, Chef Spike began working with Beyond Meat, developing content and creating recipes for the brand. He credits this experience with teaching him more about the plant-based industry. From there, he and Goldman formed PLNT Burger.
“We started this concept in a Whole Foods store,” Chef Spike says. “Our first location was Silver Springs, Maryland. I found it vastly interesting that we were able to develop a burger that was indulgent, delicious, sometimes greasy, just like any other burger joint, and it was 100% plant-based. There was fantastic vegan cheese that melted, vegan mayonnaise for sauces…ingredients that could actually do it. I would never want to do it if I couldn’t make it as delicious as any other burger joint. To me that was the light bulb moment where I thought, Wow this movement is here and I can create this 100% plant-based indulgent delicious burger shack. That’s all it took and before you know it we were innovating a lot.”
Eat the change you wish to see in the world
One of the slogans of PLNT Burger is Eat the change you wish to see in the world, which inspired the creation of Eat the Change, a CBG company. At Plant-Based Expo, the company will highlight two of products: Mushroom Jerky and Cosmic Carrot Chews. The Mushroom Jerky comes in five flavors and is a non-processed snack. The Cosmic Carrot Chews are available for children and adults. Chef Spike tells WholeFoods Magazine that they created this as a healthier alternative to fruit snacks. “We were able to figure out how to marinate and dehydrate the carrot to taste like a gusher and have a real pop of flavor. One pack of carrots is equal to one whole serving of carrots.”
For those who aren’t 100% sold on a plant-based or vegan diet yet, Chef Spike says start small. “For those at home, at Eat the Change, we do a month long campaign and we call it the Incredible Planet Challenge. Everyday we challenge consumers with some sort of plant-based challenge. This can be swapping dairy milk for plant-based in your coffee. We have these little challenges to introduce people to plant-based foods, where we’re not preaching vegetarianism, but we’re saying what if you just try one little swap.”
When it comes down to it, Chef Spike is all about healthy food and creating positive change. “I love to talk about food policy and support, both locally and internationally,” he said. “My platform is to educate people about what’s important.”
You can register for Plant-Based World Expo here and join Chef Spike on Day 2, to learn more about how he’s helping to grow the plant-based movement.