Months after announcing his departure from his longtime role as the resident food columnist for the New York Times in his farewell column, in which he hinted at a new role with a California food startup, Mark Bittman has been announced as the chief innovation officer for Purple Carrot, a vegan meal delivery service.
The announcement coincides with a website revamp for Purple Carrot, as well as delivery expansion to the West Coast, millions more in financing, and “a huge upgrade in recipes,” according to Bittman.
The author, now a full-time partner at the startup, will continue to write cookbooks and has promised to continue addressing food matters when compelling. His latest cookbook, Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix, was released in late October, and is fittingly vegetable-heavy.
His new role, however, is about being able to have a direct influence on the way Americans eat and think about food — the central issue of Bittman’s writing for many years, including the urgent call for a national food policy, both in the Washington Post last November, and again in Medium this October.
“I’ve been interested in different attempts to get better food in the hands of people for many years,” Bittman told The Daily Meal. But it took a while to find the right partnership.
“I’ve ditched a lot of things, too. But when I met with Andy [Levitt, Purple Carrot founder], we just got along really well, and I decided to join informally and work behind the scenes. Four to six weeks later, I was heavily involved and just found it irresistible.” Bittman’s first recipes for Purple Carrot were developed in Berkeley, California, but operations have moved to the company’s test kitchen in Tribeca, New York City. “Short of my going into someone’s home each night myself to help them make dinner, this is about as direct a way as I can imagine to help them answer the question, ‘What are we going to eat tonight?’”
At Purple Carrot, Bittman will be able to implement the dietary tenets that he has regularly urged America and its food producers to heed: Reduce carbon footprint, eat more vegetables than you were eating before, and cut out junk food as much as possible. And for the record, Bittman is not a vegan, just a “less meat-arian,” meaning simply that he eats less meat than vegetables overall. Bittman’s own version of this is VB6, or vegan before 6 p.m.
But why bother?
Because it’s not just good for your health, it’s good for the health of the planet — or put those in reverse order if that’s more convincing to you — because they’re completely intertwined. “A healthy diet is linked to what’s sustainable. It’s just not possible to build a healthy diet without a better agricultural system. Those things are twins.”
And although all of Purple Carrot’s recipes are vegan, the goal is not to make anyone cut meat entirely from their diets, just to eat more vegetables — a lot more. By doing so, you’ll not only improve your own diet, but “for every animal you don’t eat, you are reducing your carbon footprint.”
If Bittman and Purple Carrot can get you to eat more vegetables — preferably ones that you cooked at home — that’s good enough for them. The company has no specific demographic except “busy people who want to get food on the table quickly,” according to Bittman, which is probably everyone you know.
Purple Carrot is now available in more than 70 percent of the country and the company has expanded its subscription service to include more meal plans. Another round of financing for the year-old startup, which has just completed a $3 million seed round, is set to begin in early 2016.