Charley’s Steak House in Orlando, Florida says it's the first steak house in the U.S. to serve a plant-based steak.
Its cut of choice is a filet mignon made by Chunk Foods, a FootPrint Coalition portfolio company, that uses a process called fermentation to create a tender steak that tastes, cooks, looks, and chews just like beef.
Chunk’s steak debuted in Charley’s on August 2 and will appear in order dining venues from Taste of the Town Restaurant Group in October. Breaking into the meat-centered world of steak houses is a huge milestone for the plant-based meat industry.
Picture your perfect steak: peppery and pan-seared with garlic butter, caramelized on the outside, juicy, meaty, and tender on the inside, and finally — if you have the right opinion — cooked to an exquisite medium rare.
Now imagine, that superb, sizzling steak is not meat at all and is instead an exact plant-based replica, with all of the features most love about steak but without the carbon footprint of beef and, as an added bonus, way healthier.
According to Charley’s Steak House located in downtown Orlando, Florida, it is the first U.S. steak house to serve up plant-based steak and its cut of choice is a filet mignon made by Chunk Foods, a startup backed by FootPrint Coalition, which uses a process called fermentation to create a plant-based steak that looks, tastes, feels, and cooks just like beef, while being anything but.
Even more, when cooked to the right degree, it has the beautiful pink center indicative of the perfect medium-rare steak.
“It's so close to meat based that it fooled us, and honestly, you want more and more of it,” Clark Woodsby, the executive vice president of Talk of the Town Restaurant Group, which runs Charley’s said via Business Insider, speaking of a blind taste testing held with staffers.
According to Woodsby “It fulfills that niche that we've lacked for so long.”
Often, Seth Miller, the vice president and chief operating officer of Talk of the Town, said via Fast Company, large groups come into Charley’s or the group’s other restaurants, with one or two vegans or vegetarians among them, and for the last 15 years, the team has been searching high and low for a non-animal alternative to serve them.
Up until now, all Charley’s could offer non-meat eaters were an array of side dishes – but that’s all about to change.
“All steaks are not created equal,” Charley’s website prominently reads, and that includes plant-based. For the last decade and a half, Miller and the team had not been able to find a plant-based option that met their standards.
However, Chunk stepped up to the plate — literally.
Miller and the team discovered Chunk at a recent restaurant show in Chicago, and after trying it, they knew they finally had the perfect plant-based whole-cut steak to add to their wood-fired menu.
Labeled “F U Filet Mignon – Freaking Unbelievable Plant-Based by Chunk,” the steak goes for $69. While it is a pretty penny, it aligns with many of the other prices on Charley’s menu, being the same price as the prime New York strip and the prime lamb chops topped with parsley-mint chimichurri.
“It's not an inexpensive product,” Miller via Business Insider. “To deliver the quality that we want, it's going to be an added expense to our guests.”
Nevertheless, Talk of the Town is so confident that the plant-based steaks will be popular among non-meat eaters and those simply wanting a healthier option, that they ordered 100,000 cuts to sell in Orlando’s Charley’s, which debuted on August 2, and at its other Florida dining experiences — two other Charley's, FishBones, Texas Cattle Company, and Vito's Chop House — by October.
To make the steak, Chunk Foods uses a patented fermentation process that is similar to the traditional way to make cheese and sausage. With 40 grams of protein, the 6-ounce F U steak is comparable to the typical 42 grams of protein in a beef 6-ounce steak, but without the cholesterol.
Chunk uses a shortlist of ingredients: fermented soy and wheat, beet juice, coconut oil for rendering, fortified iron, and the nutrient B12 to make a plant-based steak that is a cut above the rest.
Talk of the Town wanted a steak that could be wood-fired just like the others, and Chunk’s can do all that and more: from pan-searing, grilling, and smoking, to basting, baking, barbequing, and being thrown into a stew.
And Chunk isn’t stopping at steak. The startup’s first target may be beef – the meat with the worst impact on the planet from emissions to deforestation — but pork, lamb, and poultry are next.
Even better, to accomplish all this, Chunk does not use any additives, thickeners, or binders, as many other plant-based options do. Instead, the fermentation process is what allows Chunk to achieve the ideal meaty texture at a large scale.
While Chunk is already served in a handful of restaurants — including a recent addition, New York’s Willow Bistro — Charley’s is the first steak house to add it, or any plant-based steak, to its repertoire, representing a huge milestone for the plant-based meat industry which is currently stuck in a bit of a sales slump, in spite of the rising concerns about climate change.
Still, not many plant-based meat companies have been able to tap into the multibillion-dollar steak market. While plant-based options are on menus at many other chains from Chipotle to Burger King, breaking into the meat-centered worlds of restaurants like Charley’s shows that plant-based isn’t limited to veggie burgers and taco bowls, and can meat the challenge set by the climate crisis.