Q&A with Lisa Phelps, Impossible Foods Inc.
A culinary professional's perspective on plant-based foods
Prepared Foods talks with Lisa Phelps, senior manager of concierge services at Impossible Foods Inc., Redwood City, Calif. Impossible Foods’ flagship product, the Impossible Burger, is available in restaurants throughout the United States and even Hong Kong. This September, White Castle added the Impossible Slider to all of its locations.
A graduate of Johnson & Wales, Phelps most recently was a principal and vice president of Culinary, Training and Partnerships at Elohi Strategic Advisors. She also has served as director of test kitchen innovations at The Pampered Chef and led her own business, Flavor & More LLC, as founder and chief culinary officer.
Prepared Foods: To date, Impossible Foods has distributed its namesake burger in the foodservice channel. Your company’s success tells us that the Impossible Burger must be pleasing chefs—such experienced tasters—as well their consumer patrons.
Lisa Phelps: The Impossible product already is a favorite on the menus of more than 3,000 restaurants in the US and Hong Kong, including top chefs, who serve it in their award-winning restaurants. Consumers love it, too. In a blind taste-test, about half the tasters preferred the Impossible to ground beef from cows, based purely on taste. And the feedback we get from chefs is that the product meets and exceeds their expectations.
Meanwhile, Impossible Foods is continuing to improve our recipe, which is something cows cannot do.
PF: Before joining Impossible Foods, had you worked with many of the company’s key ingredient sources of proteins, fats, flavors and binders? What have you learned about these ingredients?
Phelps: I have been in the natural food space for numerous years. The industry has changed a lot, and luckily it has vastly improved with new ingredients that support a clean label offering. Impossible Foods was founded to make our global food system more environmentally sustainable and ethical, and that translates to everything we do—even working with our key ingredients.
What I’ve learned is that because of our ingredients, Impossible Foods offers a new value proposition to any menu offering. Our product not only drives consumer awareness, it drives change. Any time consumers see an Impossible product on a menu, they tend to think twice about their decision to eat meat from animals, and instead consider the mission we wholeheartedly embrace: changing the way we look at food.
PF: What have you learned about working with your food scientist counterparts to ensure Impossible Foods’ finished product delivers the ultimate taste, texture, aroma and visual appeal?
Phelps: Our team of scientists breaks the experience of eating beef apart—and then builds that experience back from scratch, using only plant-based ingredients. They work closely with our culinary team, to ensure the product holds true to its promise of handling, cooking, and tasting just like meat from a cow.
Because of this collaboration (which you can’t find or replicate with meat from a cow), our teams ensure the Impossible Burger is the perfect product for chefs.
PF: Any thoughts—from a culinary perspective—about how and where plant-based foods might evolve in 2019? Anything we might see that’s not out on the market at the moment?
Phelps: The evolution of plant-based food offerings has only just begun to impact the world with positive momentum, and there’s much more to come! Creative culinary minds, when paired with food science counterparts, will only continue to create stronger impact in the food world.
Impossible Foods was founded to replace animals as food production technology, and our platform will enable us to understand and recreate all animal products—including meat, dairy, and fish—using plants. The goal is to produce a full range of meats and dairy products for every region in the world. So, you can expect many more plant-based offerings from Impossible Foods in the future!
Originally appeared in the October, 2018 issue of Prepared Foods as First Person.