How to Start a Food Company and Train for an Ironman
Meal-delivery kits are everywhere these days. And the country’s second-largest grocery store chain, Albertsons, purchased the premium service Plated for between $175 and $200 million. Plated delivers distinctive recipes – as crafted by an expert culinary team led by Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Elana Karp – which include fresh, pre-portioned ingredients. Coming next month, subscribers will be among the first to taste the recipes from Gail Simmons’ new cookbook, Bringing It Home. Meanwhile, its app, Morsel by Plated, features additional recipes, cooking tips and lifestyle advice.
By partnering with a grocery brand, the service hopes to scale its offerings to the 2,300 stores to offer in-store pickup while continuing to offer its delivery services, according to an Albertsons press release.
Prior to launching Plated, co-founder Nick Taranto – who also serves as the company’s Chief Strategy Officer – served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantry officer. An avid triathlete and ultramarathoner, Taranto recently competed in the Mont Tremblant Ironman. To learn more about both Plated and the eating that is required to train so hard, I caught up with Taranto.
The Daily Meal: As the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Plated, what is a typical day at work like for you?
Nick Taranto: Every day is different, whether I’m out on the road or at our headquarters in New York City. When I’m heading into the office, two or three days per week I'll ride my bike to work, 20 to 40 miles depending on the route I take. I'm at work by 9 a.m. most days. At the office I’m constantly in and out of meetings and pitches and keeping up with my email.
For lunch, I either pick over the creations from the culinary team as they test recipes in the Test Kitchen, or I'll get a quinoa and kale bowl from Juice Shop. I limit my eating to eight hours per day (normally noon to 8 p.m.), and outside of those hours I don’t eat or drink anything except coffee and water. But during that window I'm noshing on nuts, fruits, and Test Kitchen creations. After work, I'll meet a friend or business contact for a drink then I'll head home to cook Plated with my wife and two munchkins. After we put the kids to bed, I'll get back online and work for a few hours or watch Game of Thrones if the day is light.
How would you describe Plated to someone who hasn't tried it yet? What makes it stand out from other meal delivery services?
We deliver everything you need to cook a fantastic meal at home in about 30 minutes. Plated is all about making it easy for people to have great dinner experiences from start to finish. We know that food is personal, so we offer at least 17 recipes each week to ensure our customers find choices they can’t wait to try. Our menus also encourage discovery and adventure in the kitchen by offering a range of tastes and global flavors.
Do you have a favorite of the current Plated meal offerings?
Last week we made the blackened salmon sandwiches with kale-fennel slaw. The remoulade sauce was filled with capers and pickles and the briny deliciousness was pretty epic.
Aside from Plated, I've read that you have completed in the Mont Tremblant Ironman. How do you manage to do that when working around food?
It was all about focus and balance. I was really strategic about my training regimen and how that fit into my business schedule and family life. To be honest, working around food was the easy part because when I was training hard, I was able to eat upwards of 7,000 calories per day!
Is there a particular diet you follow in order to do your triathlons and ultra-marathons?
I try to eat plant-based most meals though I'll eat fish for dinner a few nights per week. Many people think it’s impossible to sustain a heavy training load without meat and poultry, but I find that getting my proteins primarily from nuts, legumes, and ancient grains helps me stay lean and recover faster. After long workouts, I make sure almond croissants and fudge brownies are readily available. The carbohydrate intake directly after a three hour ride helps with glycogen replenishment, and in all honesty, why the heck would you ride, run, and swim those ridiculous distances if you can't indulge afterwards?!
Work aside, how do you like to spend your free time?
Between work, family, and training, I don't have a ton of free time. But I do love advising and mentoring early-stage companies. It's my creative outlet.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?
My favorite restaurant these days is actually in Jersey City. It's called Talde, after chef Dale Talde, who opened his first restaurant in Brooklyn a few years ago. They have a short rib and curried noodle dish which I legitimately dream about, and their cocktails are awesome.
Finally, Nick, any last words for the kids?
JRR Tolkien said something like the world would be a much happier place if we valued food more than gold.