Robert Downey Jr-Backed Chunk Foods’ Plant-Based Whole Cuts Added to Charley’s Steak House Menu
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Israeli startup Chunk Foods‘ plant-based whole-cut meat is now on the menu at Charley’s Steak House in Orlando – the first time a US steakhouse chain is offering a vegan alternative. Backed by Robert Downey Jr’s VC firm FootPrint Coalition, Chunk Foods’ biomass-fermented filet mignon is priced at $69.
Chunk Foods uses solid-state fermentation and combines plant-based ingredients with food-grade organisms to create its whole-cut beef alternative. Whole cuts have often been described as the “holy grail” of alt-meat, and this collaboration follows the appearance of Redefine Meat’s 3D-printed alternative on restaurant menus in Europe and Israel.
Chunk Foods’ journey
Founded in 2020 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chunk Foods raised $15m in seed funding last year – which founder Amos Golan called the biggest seed round ever for an Israeli company. Using solid-state fermentation allows the product to be “highly tunable”, and makes it cheaper than high-moisture extrusion or submerged fermentation, which calls for expensive steel vessels and downstream processing tech.
While its vegan whole-cut beef uses cultured soy and wheat, the company says it is working on products without these ingredients for diners with allergies. After beef, it plans to develop vegan pork, lamb and poultry alternatives. As reported by TechCrunch, this will be aided by the opening of a new factory in Israel, described by Golan as “one of the largest plant-based whole-cuts factories in the world”.
Chunk Foods’ vegan steak has already appeared on the menus of several New York City restaurants, including Coletta, Anixi and The Butcher’s Daughter. And while other plant-based whole cuts – like the aforementioned Redefine Meat and Meati‘s mycelium-based alternatives – have made it to eatery menus, Chunk Foods’ collaboration with Charley’s Steak House marks the first time a steakhouse is offering a vegan option.
Charley’s Steak House’s inclusivity bid
Part of the Talk of the Town Restaurant Group, Charley’s Steak House has been around since 1984. This move marks a milestone moment for the eatery and reflects its commitment to more inclusive dining.
“At our core, we serve the finest steaks and seafood, and we have been searching for over 15 years for a plant-based option for our guests that meets our standards,” said Talk of the Town VP and COO, Seth Miller. “We are excited to introduce our customers to Chunk steak; this partnership provides a solution that is in line with our quality expectations that we place on every item we serve. If it’s not the best, we won’t serve it.”
Chunk Foods says its steaks are “extremely versatile” when it comes to the cooking method – they can be “pan-seared, basted, grilled, smoked, stewed, braised, BBQ, and baked, the same way beef is prepared”. This affords a greater level of creativity and eschews the need for intensive chef training.
“At Chunk, we’re passionate about pushing boundaries,” said Golan. “Together [with Charley’s Steak House], we’re ensuring that all guests, regardless of dietary preference, can enjoy an exceptional steakhouse experience.”
More and more companies are successfully debuting their vegan whole cuts to the North American market, with New School Foods‘ salmon filet and Tender Food‘s beef steaks, pulled pork and chicken breasts being prime examples as plant-forward consumers look for texture and format variety beyond mince-based burgers, sausages and nuggets.