While Elon Musk is building sexy green cars and space rockets, his brother Kimbal is also saving the world - with sustainable food. Three weeks ago I landed with a gaggle of girls at The Kitchen Next Door in Boulder, Colorado. Having spent the majority of my childhood in South Africa, it was a proud moment to learn the restaurant is owned by one of the Musk brothers - those Musk brothers - also from South Africa. The restaurant had recently posted a photograph on their Facebook page of a massive pile of locally-grown kale. I'm guessing it was probably this kale - salted, turned into crispy chips and Incredible Hulk green - that Luke served, plate after wonderful plate, to me and my friends. Despite being brimful of wine at the time, I could taste a deeper story.
According to Fastco, after making his first fortune on Zip2 with his brother, Elon, the “other” Musk enrolled in New York’s esteemed French Culinary Institute. Then, in April, 2004, he, Jen Lewin and Hugo Matheson opened their first restaurant in Colorado – called The Kitchen Boulder. Soon after, Musk and Hugo Matheson expanded their operations with a cocktail lounge upstairs, called The Kitchen Upstairs. The community pub I visited opened next door to the original location in 2011. Since then, all kinds of delicious versions of the Kitchen have popped up throughout Colorado and Chicago, and Memphis is next. But unlike other restauranteurs, Kimbal Musk is driven by more than bulking up his bank account; he is building a national marketplace for the kind of food that is actually good for America.
“In a model that he plans to use around the entire country, Musk goes to a city, opens restaurants that help stimulate demand for healthy, locally grown food, and uses some of the proceeds (along with grants and city funding) to support building dozens of “learning gardens” at schools throughout a city,” Fastco Reports.
“These kids have no idea where meat comes from, or where a carrot comes from,” Musk told Fastco. “We show them pulling a carrot out of the ground and it is literally like a magic trick. They just have no experiential context around it.”
Kimbal and Matheson established The Kitchen Community nonprofit to help connect kids to real food by creating Learning Gardens in schools across America, according to an entry in Wikipedia. They have subsequently established 251 Learning Gardens in 46 communities across the country, Fastco reports. The ultimate goal is to develop 100 Learning Gardens in 100 cities within the next 50 years. But Musk’s ambitions don’t end there.
In addition to ensuring all of his restaurants follow through on their commitment to “environmentally-friendly practices, including composting, wind power, eco-friendly packaging and recycling,” Musk told Fastco he is working to get the government to better support farmers who want to transition to organic growing practices – an expensive and burdensome three-year process for the average farmer.
“There’s an incredible amount of infrastructure and subsidy for big ag,” Musk told Fastco. “We’ve got to give something to the organic farmers so they can deliver to the demand. It would be a pittance, virtually not even a rounding error, for farmers to get support during that three-year transition period.”
Head over to Fastco for the full report; I can almost guarantee you will feel more optimistic about the world knowing there are two Musks working to save it.