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Hyped New Meatless Burger Takes on its Fierce Texas Critics

Are its Celebrity Chef Believers on an Impossible Mission?

BY // 06.29.17

Can a burger made entirely of plants sway Texans to give up their meat? Patrick O. Brown, the founder of  Impossible Foods — a company working to transform the global food system with plant-based products — believes he is up for the challenge.

Equipped with an M.D., Ph.D, and a resume which touts impressive posts such as Stanford University professor emeritus of biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Brown dreamed up Impossible Foods in 2011 as a way to apply his scientific expertise to the world’s growing challenges with food sustainability.

“The United States consumes an incredible amount of meat. It’s just not sustainable. Science has proven that,” Brown saus. “More than 5 billion pounds of ground beef are eaten in restaurants alone throughout the U.S.”

It’s statistics like these that led to Impossible Foods’ flagship product — the Impossible Burger, the only plant-based burger in the world that handles, smells, cooks and tastes like ground beef from cows.

But while the burger may be plant-based, this is anything but your average veggie burger. In fact, Brown and the Impossible Foods team didn’t have vegetarians in mind when creating this product. Their true target base is the avid carnivore.

“The only consumer we ever want is a meat lover,” Brown says. “Catering to vegetarians won’t make an environmental impact. Our goal is to entice people who love meat. We want them to see this as another option.”

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The Impossible Burger is already off to a rolling start, attracting the attention of celebrity restaurateurs like Momofuku’s David Chang. Chang was the first to debut the Impossible Burger at his New York City restaurant Momofuku Nishi.

Nearly 25 restaurants across California and New York have followed Chang’s lead, also adding the the product to their menu lineup.

Even with the Impossible Burger’s growing success — the company has already raised more than $200 million in funding from investors like Bill Gates, Brown won’t be content until he takes over a market that’s known for it’s love of meat: Texas.

And who better than chef Chris Shepherd to help jumpstart what is sure to be an uphill battle in the Lone Star State. Already a pioneer on the Houston restaurant scene, Shepherd furthers his trailblazing reputation as the first chef in Texas to offer the Impossible Burger, which will appear at both Underbelly and The Hay Merchant (it costs $18 and is served in the restaurant’s Cease and Desist burger style).

impossible-burger
Chef Chris Shepherd will now offer his signature Cease and Desist burger with Impossible Burger’s plant-based meat.

“At Underbelly and Hay Merchant, I tell the story of Houston through cuisine — and with Impossible Foods, I hear a fascinating story about food and sustainability on a regional, national and global scale,” Shepherd says. “One taste, and I knew I wanted it on my menus.”

“It’s a true honor to partner with Chris — he’s a culinary innovator and pioneer,” Brown adds. “The fact that he’s serving the Impossible Burger in a restaurant known for its on-site butcher shop shows how quickly the culinary world is shifting toward sustainability.”

Shepherd and Brown may have high hopes for Impossible Foods’ Texas infiltration, but many Houstonians have unsurprisingly voiced reservations about a burger created entirely without meat. Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook gave the burger an overall F grade in a withering review.

The critics however haven’t rattled Brown. “We’re not going to stop until we’re Texas approved,” he insists.

The Impossible Burger Taste Test

While it may be an unpopular opinion, it’s worth noting that I thoroughly enjoyed my Impossible Burger experience. Was it the best burger I’ve ever tried? Absolutely not, but it definitely rivaled a few au naturel renditions. I was shocked by how closely it resembled the real thing.

Not to mention the Impossible Burger uses 75 percent less water; generates about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases; requires 95 percent less land than conventional ground beef; and is produced without antibiotics, cholesterol, hormones, or artificial flavors.

Whether Texans like it or not, the Impossible Burger is here to stay… at least for now. In fact, one of the hottest burger chains in Texas, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, added the product to its locations in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio last week.

“We are proud to partner with a brand that aligns perfectly with the pillars that Hopdoddy was founded on: a unique and honest product made the right way with the freshest and best available ingredients,” Hopdoddy CEO Jeff Chandler says. “These pillars allow us to serve the highest quality burger in terms of flavor, health, and sustainability.”

With time, Brown hopes to not only continue expanding the Impossible Burgers footprint, but also to keep improving the flavor.

“I don’t want someone to be eating our burger just for the sake of the greater good. We want to make sure it’s as delicious as the best burger you’ve ever had,” he says.

And for the naysayers Brown adds, “[The Impossible Burger] may not be for you, but it’s definitely for the world.”

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