Kimbal Musk: Reinventing The Role Of Restaurants In Changing Americas Food Culture at TEDxBOULDER (Transcript)

I love the restaurant business. It’s great. Boys and girls meet their special someone in restaurants. Friends break bread with friends in restaurants. People start revolutions in restaurants. It’s awesome! I would love for someone to start a revolution in my restaurant. We’re at the center of our society, one of the hubs of our communities, and one of the drivers of our culture.

And when it comes to food, we have amazing power in telling people how and what to eat. And over the past few decades we have not been very responsible stewards. We’ve changed America’s culture, from a food culture to a fuel culture. Let’s get it to you as fast and cheap as we can, and let’s process the hell out of it! For kids, it’s even worse. They only know plated food comes in plastic wraps or in a McDonald’s box.

Fat and sugar is all they know. Going to a vegetable garden is like going to the zoo. And the results are horrifying. 1 in 7 kids enter kindergarten obese today. How did we get here? Well, let’s go back just a few years, just fifteen years, sixteen years, in 1995, we weren’t doing too badly, I mean, still 1 in 5 were obese, but, not too bad.

Indiana, up there — the only state that was over 20% obese. It’s in the pink. Then, things, kind of really fell off the cliff. By 1998 — we had over 10 states with 20% of obesity. By 2000, talk the country, and we started to see 25%. By 2004, there was almost no state under 20% obesity, and now we started to see over 30% obesity. By 2008, almost every state was over 30% obese, and in 2010, 46% of adult Americans are obese.

Now we’re in Boulder, it’s not our problem, right? It’s their problem, let them eat whatever they want. Well, it is actually our problem. In 2010, it cost us $ 450 billion in medical care and lost productivity. That’s three times the cost of universal health care, four times the cost of the Iraq war at its peak, and it’s getting worse fast. It’s expected to double by 2018.

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It’s a real problem and we’ve got to deal with it. So, what can restaurants do about it? Restaurants have an amazing power to impact the food culture, obviously. We have the power to really make the change, and be part of the change. And for that, I just want to give you a little background of myself.

I’m one of the founders of “The Kitchen”, which is a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. It’s a nationally recognized restaurant, [Farm-to-Table] in Colorado; it’s a lot of fun and it is not interesting. The reason it’s not interesting is because it’s not fast, it’s not cheap, and it doesn’t do anything for kids. And so, my co-founders and I — about two years ago — started thinking about how can we have an impact, how can we be part of the change.

So, what we can do to solve the problem, how we can be part of the solution. And I want to talk a little bit about a project we started, called The Kitchen Next Door, which opened two months ago, and it’s a restaurant, it’s a casual pub, and the idea was to create something that was fast, cheap, and connected to kids.

Nothing is over $10, you’ll get your food in under 2 minutes, and there’s a very strong kids program. In addition, if you come to our restaurant — and this is one of the biggest pet peeves that I have with restaurants today — they encourage you to eat alone, whether through a drive-thru or take out. So, what we do is, we have community tables, so even if you come in to eat alone, you don’t actually have to eat alone. And it’s been a very important part of our mission to really get people back together, to create community through food.

And so, from our perspective we felt like we had achieved fast, we’d achieved cheap, and we were helping the community, but how could we work with kids? And that’s what I believe is the most important place to start because if you don’t get them young, the good ones — well, the healthy ones will move to Boulder and everyone else is screwed.

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So, what we did was — We started creating dishes that kids would love to eat. Kale chips are awesome and kids love them. Organic cheese and ham — So simple it’s really, really simple. Kids love it. A lamb sandwich with tomato soup they love it! Nothing is processed, very fast, very simple, inexpensive, kids love it. We tried to create a kids program, where kids can actually start having fun with vegetables, because of a vegetable mustache, a vegetable tattoo. We have a couple of tongue twisters that can often even challenge parents, “Do you prefer peeled pees or unpeeled pees? Partiality to pees peeled or unpeeled, proves pointless. Pees peeled or unpeeled presumably persist being peas. Perhaps, currently, I prefer unpeeled peas to peeled peas, how about you?”

The idea is to get kids having fun with vegetables, having fun with good food. We have a magnet wall where kids can play with vegetables, make funny faces, have some fun with it. And it’s a great way for kids to enjoy themselves at a restaurant because, oftentimes, they don’t have the patience to sit at the table for 20-30 minutes, but they can go to do something else and have some fun with it. Now, it’s all well and good, we’re in Boulder, and this is a crazy, hippie town, so it’s easy to write this off.

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