Close

August 13, 2019

Vertical kale?!

August 13, 2019

Vertical kale?!

A trio of California’s most distinguished chefs will lead the culinary advisory board of vertical farming startup PlentyDominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn), Nancy Silverton (Osteria Mozza) and Traci Des Jardins (Arguello) will lend their expertise — and high profile — to the venture capital backed food tech company, which just unveiled its second-generation vertical farm in South San Francisco.

“Dominique, Traci, and Nancy have a willful passion for flavor and unwillingness to compromise that perfectly aligns with our ethos,” said Plenty CEO and co-founder Matt Barnard. “They are world-class at what they do and we’re honored and excited to work with them.”

Plenty’s vertically-farmed, hydroponic greens use just one percent of the land and less than five percent of the water as traditional farming, the company claims. And on top of that, its kale and arugula are tastier, too — or so Barnard contends. “I’ve seen people just snacking on [our arugula] like a potato chip,” the CEO said last year as Plenty launched with samples at Golden Gate Park festival Outside Lands.

Can a machine-learning calibrated, LED-lit farm create a year-round crop of vegetables that compete with potato chips on flavor? Barnard hopes so — as do chefs like Silverton, Des Jardins, and Crenn, to whom Plenty’s environmental and gustatory missions both appeal.

“As chefs, we need to think so much farther than what we have in front of us,” said Crenn, who recently pledged to make her next business, Boutique Crenn, waste-free. “What can we do, now, and in the future, to make sure this planet is well taken care of?”

As advisors, Crenn, Silverton, and Des Jardins will offer feedback on Plenty’s products. Locally, chef Anthony Secviar of Protégé and Sam Mogannam of Bi-Rite will also offer advice, joining Plenty’s Bay Area culinary council.

Crenn, who runs her own farm, Bleu Belle, in Sonoma, doesn’t sound easy to please. “The problem with produce sometimes in America is there is no flavor, there’s no nutrients,” she says. “You have a tomato — but is it really a tomato? We need to get back to what the essence of the vegetable is.”

For a certain culinary crowd, names like Crenn’s will help Plenty’s cause. Association with stars like Traci Des Jardins and David Chang helped catapult Impossible Foods’ success, for example.

But ultimately, like Crenn, customers will judge Plenty on flavor. Locally, its produce is available at specialty stores like Faletti Foods, Roberts Market, and through Good Eggs. It’s also available in salad form at automated burger restaurant Creator.

More is likely on the way: Plenty has more than $220 million in funding from investors like SoftBank’s Vision Fund and Bezos Expeditions.