In 2014, Kale and Aubry Walch were selling their meat-free-meats at a small stand in their local farmer's market. Today, the brother-and-sister duo are the stars behind the Minneapolis foodie favorite, The Herbivorous Butcher, which has been featured in TIME, Vogue, and The Guardian, just to name a few. And they're just getting started.
The story was so good, I had to bite.
Between hand-crafting some Holiday Hams, Kale took a few minutes to talk with me for our 5 Question series and explain how he and his sister are bridging the gap between carnivores and herbivores – and why.
1. What is your motivation for focusing on food?
Kale: I always enjoy thinking outside of the box in everything. With any sort of artistic pursuit – even playing the piano – I didn’t always like the way I was taught to do it. I wanted to try something more creative. With our food, I had more of an opportunity to do so.
Beyond just the creative aspect, when I cut out animal products from my diet I realized that a lot of meat substitutes I could find either seemed too highly processed or too…lowly processed, I guess? For instance, I’ve been to some restaurants where they would serve like six peas and a carrot on a plate. It was like art, but it wasn’t satisfying. So we try to bridge the gap between those somehow by picking out the ingredients ourselves and making them all by hand, but making them really hearty too. So it’s still artistic and every batch is a little bit different, but it’s totally satisfying.
2. What one or two people, books, or films have most influenced or inspired you in your work?
Kale: More than anything, it was Aubry just repeatedly bringing it up with me. There wasn't really a movie I watched or book I read. It was more her calling me “Butterball” because I weighed 200 pounds my senior year of high school! At that point, I was really in a place where I had to make a change, and after switching my diet I lost 80 pounds in six months. So at first, it was about having a fresh start for college, but in the process I found out more and more about the impact of the meat and dairy industries on the environment, and of course on the animals themselves. If we don’t have the environment, we don’t have anything, so I would say that drives me more than anything!
In the shop, we keep track of how much we sell and at the end of the month we’re able to see how many cows, chickens, and pigs we saved, and how much CO2 we prevented from entering the atmosphere. Seeing that really motivates everyone to keep innovating recipes and keep people coming back.
3. What has been your most memorable moment with the company?
Kale: The day we found out we hit our Kickstarter goal, because that was the day we knew we were going to be more than a farmer’s market stand. It was the day we knew people actually liked us and this might actually work! When we found out, we were at the community kitchen where we first made our products, so Aubry and I were together, and we were thrilled.
4. If you could be known for one thing, what would you want it to be?
Kale: I want to be known for helping as many people as I can and never compromising. At The Herbivorous Butcher, we try to help people by making it easier to make healthier, more compassionate choices. We’ve got a lot of customers, including my dad, who come to the shop every week because their blood pressure and their cholesterol is way too high, and they need to cut down on animal products or face serious problems, and this makes it easier because they don’t have to give up the flavors they like.
One of the more interesting aspects, at least I hope, is sort of cultivating a spirit of empathy in people. If they can come to our shop for a Meatless Monday, then maybe by making a more compassionate or empathetic choice on Monday, perhaps they can extend that to someone on the street who perhaps they wouldn’t have even looked at otherwise.
That’s the aspect that really excites me: seeing that empathy cultivated in people, which is really inspiring.
5. What product or initiative are you most excited about right now? Why?
Kale: I'm excited about the potential for new shops around the country! It keeps me motivated to make new recipes and make them better because even more people will have access to them.
Also, I’m excited about the new Holiday Ham we’re working on! It’s going to be a little bit different from the one we had last year, and bit truer to the one I grew up eating. The previous hams were pretty sweet because we were going for the classic honey ham. This one is much more savory: I do a sweet glaze on top so that sweetness is still represented, but this version has a little bit of our “fat” in the middle of it, which is made from a tapioca flour, oil, water, and salt base. It looks and acts just like fat, so we’re rolling those into the middle of every ham to create a really true flavor and texture.So I’m pretty excited about that! Less excited about making 800 of them by hand, but hey, it hurts so good.
Thanks for making plant-based eating delicious, Kale!
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