Kimbal Musk is a South African-born Canadian-American entrepreneur, venture capitalist and environmentalist who has invested in several technology and food companies.
• Adam Levin (Adam K Levin is a consumer advocate with a focus on data security, identity theft and personal fi...)
• Eric Ries (Eric Ries is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author recognized for pioneering the lean startup ...)
• Rick Schwartz (Rick Schwartz is an American domain name entrepreneur.)» All Entrepreneur Interviews
My personal mission is to strengthen communities through food. I co-founded The Kitchen, a growing family of restaurants that sources directly from local farmers, stimulating the local farm economy to the tune of millions of dollars a year, and creating quality jobs. In 2011, I also co-founded The Kitchen Community, a complementary non-profit organization. TKC builds Learning Gardens in schools around the U.S. reaching hundreds of thousands of students every school day, improving their vegetable intake and academic achievements.
I'm sure many of you folks will ask me questions about Tesla and Chipotle. Please know that I am a board member and cannot answer any question that reveal non-public information. With regards to my awesome bro, my main job as a brother nowadays is helping to protect his privacy. Questions about him may not get the most interesting answers.
With that, let's have fun with this!
EDIT: That was awesome - thanks for joining me today! I'm happy to continue answering questions over on Twitter @Kimbal (
Hi, I'm a Food Science major at Cornell University and I was curious about your view on GMOs. Personally, I am pro GMO as no respected scientist has found any negative effects on human health. Also they provide higher yield, require less water and land, provide higher nutrients, etc. Some people worry about genetic diversity, or forced selection, etc. etc., which are legitimate worries, but does the idea of it bother you?
I'd also like to learn more about what it is you do. Do you have more information on your company? Is it for-profit? Mission statement etc.
Best to read my article from Medium on this subject. As a food science major, I'd be curious to hear if you agree. You can also see my answer to audreyk2.
How important is going local to real food? Or is it more about improving chemistry to ensure ripeness at the right time and resilience during the growth process?
I believe we have really lost our local connection to food and for the benefit of everyone in society we need to get it back. But there will always be a role for non-local foods in the future of #realfood. I wouldn't go down the path of chemistry to improve ripeness (I'm sure that's a fine path that people are already working on).
What I love about local is that you get more connection to your food by knowing the farmer. And the farmer is going to look after their animals, food and land better, because their community is their buyer. Everyone wins when we are more connected as a community.
Instead of the GMO debate... what should Greenpeace be focusing on in terms of the food industry?
The GMO debate is a frustrating one for me. I'm a scientist at heart, but don't see much benefit from the vast majority of GMO products. 99.999% of GMO use is either for animal feed, or for high calorie, low nutrition processed food and as a result is a key player in our obesity epidemic. I honestly don't know much about Greenpeace's role in the debate, but we need the debate to open, honest and transparent to get us to the right food future.
For additional info, see my Medium piece:
I think its awesome what you are doing with food. Can the Kitchen Community be found in the Chicago area? I'd love to get my (2 yr old) son exposed to that in the future.
And are you on the list of the Model 3 and how excited are you for that car?
We rocking it in Chicago! Check out tkc.com to learn more about our work there. The TKC team have done amazing things to get us to 114 schools there, reaching over 60,000 kids every school day!
And of course, I have my model 3 and I get goose bumps everytime I think about it. :)
I see a lot of restaurants popping up around my area that market to come from local famers. However, a great deal of their menu is not locally sourced. Do you see this as a problem or is it common practice?
It has become a popular marketing term and I really do hope that most of these restaurants do support local farmers in earnest. That being said, I am starting to see a lot more accountability out there and those restaurants that are not delivering on their promise won't be able to market themselves that way for much longer.
Hey Kimbal! Huge Fan!
I'm very curious to how much of your time is spent and Tesla, vs The Kitchen? What is your typical week look like work wise?
I love my life. honestly feel so blessed to be surrounded by the people I work with and the companies I am involved in. I do my best to be helpful but I also don't stick my nose in when it's not needed (or at least I hope I don't! ;) ).
My time is about 90% on Learning Gardens. 10% on The Kitchen, which is run by an incredible team. The other 50% of my 150% is Tesla, Chipotle and SpaceX. I couldn't ask for better companies to be part of.
How does operating in Boulder and Memphis differ? Boulder is one of the healthiest places in the country and Memphis one of the least. How can you change eating habits in a place like Memphis.
I love working in Memphis. While Boulder is awesome, back in 2004 when we started it had virtually no connection to local farmers, and no school gardens teaching kids about food. 12 years later it is a beacon of what can be done and it's well on its way to being connected to its food.
Memphis is just getting started. It's wide open to change and the people of Memphis love their city more than anyone else I've met in the country. We are opening three restaurants there in the next 6 months which will provide incredible buying power for local farmers. And we are already at 60 Schools with Learning Gardens, reaching about 40,000 kids. Within 2 years (instead of 12 in Boulder), we hope to see incredible change in the community. It's willing, excited and we believe the plan is coming together!
Any plans to open a location in NYC? Despite all the awesome restaurant options out here, I miss The Kitchen Bolognese, lamb burger and curry chicken from 16th street!
I love being asked to come to any community. Where in NYC do you think we'd be most successful?
The lamb burger misses you too! ;)
🌳 🚀 What do you think about the relationship between Nature and Technology in the 21st Century?
I am super excited about the role of technology in food. From automation if farms to simply the amazing information we now have access to through the internet. People learn first hand what they are putting in their bodies. I believe that the 21st Century will be the century of Real Food, driven by information, technology and land stewardship.
Frozen food can be organic and more ripe than some fresh foods. Do you think it still has a place in the real food market or will it decline drastically?
Freezing foods will always have their place. I love getting frozen fruits for my kids that would not be available out of season.
What is really having difficulty are the frozen processed foods. Those are created with only price in mind, and are high calorie, low nutrition foods. As people learn more about their food through the Internet, they are choosing those foods less and less. And that is a good thing for them and for the planet.
Hi Kimbal! I'm wondering about how you envision The Kitchen Community's role beyond the immediate future -- will you start additional initiatives besides Learning Gardens, or focus on spreading Learning Gardens as widely as possible? What do you think TKC will look like in a decade?
we discuss this everyday at TKC. While there are so many important pieces of the puzzle that need to be solved, we know that we are very good at building Learning Gardens. When we look at other areas that need help (e.g. School Food), we have to think hard on whether we are the right players to work on it, and how it would hurt our focus on Learning Gardens.
In 5 years, I hope to have at least 10 communities in America where every child is growing up around a Learning Garden. We are in LA, Chicago, Memphis, and Denver. And adding Indianapolis and Pittsburgh this year. We're well on our way!
In a decade, we hope to be across the country!
Do you think in the future we will consume Soylent like products as our main nutrition source?
Honestly I hope not. Food to me is about community. Breaking bread with friends, family dinner, working a Learning Garden together.
Soylent and other liquid food products are pretty depressing.
How do you see the connection of consumerism (i.e.) enjoying great food and sustainability ? What role do you see large food corporations such as Coca Cola, Unilever & Nestle play compared to Food Start-Ups ?
I would love to see a larger role played by the big companies. I still haven't seen much, but even the smallest effort on their part will move mountains. I think we will start to see more as the internet gets more and more powerful and we are able hold everyone up to higher standards over time.
Thanks for your investment in Memphis! We have a great food culture, but also one in desperate need of evolving. The Lyfe locations and Shelby Farms will be great catalysts for transformation.
That being said, how do you use those specific platforms to engage economically disadvantaged populations that are more skeptical to the change you are inspired to create?
Learning Gardens are almost entirely focused on the economically disadvantaged in Memphis (and all our communities). Our goal is to get those kids connected to real food and have an understanding that they really do have a choice. We have quite a few years to work with them (from Kindergarten to 12th grade), so lots of time to build up trust and understanding of what real food is.
But honestly I've not seen the skepticism that you describe. Probably because we work with kids that are fairly young at the start. They all want to be the best they can be, and real food is an exciting part of that.
Hello Mr. Musk!
I’m a proud employee of yours at The Kitchen Chicago and I wanted to take the opportunity to voice my strong support for your mission and vision behind the organization. I admire your work with the non-profit, love the healthy food, and believe you are promoting sustainability in a very accessible manner.
I have two questions for you. 1) Although I love the restaurant/learning garden concept, I foresee an inevitable need to spread the locally-sourced, real food movement across the nation rather than remaining in just a few select cities and states. What are your long-long-term plans to bring this movement to the masses?
2) I’m a recent University graduate in Entrepreneurial Management and am deeply interested in the field of sustainability, and quite specifically The Kitchen. Would it be possible to schedule a brief conversation to discuss an opportunity where my skill set could be of service on a higher level?
Hey Alex. Please call me Kimbal!
There is incredible need out there, but our focus is to go deep in the communities that have chosen to work with us. We are at 114 schools in Chicago, but there are 550 in total. We need to get to all kids in the city as our primary focus. Same goes for Memphis, Denver, LA and our new cities coming up. Long term, we do plan to reach every child in America, but we'll do it community by community and going deep.
on question #2, send me a note and let's get a coffee when I'm in Chicago next!
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs that are struggling to find a worthy problem to solve?
I love this question. If you haven't found your passion yet, my advice is to focus on finding the right people to work with. If you're surrounded by inspiring, energizing people, you'll never be wasting your time. Through that process, you will probably get the mindspace and inspiration to find your passion. And then when you do pursue your passion, you'll have an instant team of people to bring along with you!
How do you feel Vertical Farming / Controlled Environment Agriculture technology has changed or will change #RealFood and how can a recent college grad get into that industry?
How much does The Kitchen source from such suppliers/producers?
How much is technology incorporated in your learning gardens? And what kinds?
Vertical Farming is the area I am most excited about in the future of #RealFood. Ping me on Twitter in a few months and I will tell you how to get involved. Some super cool things happening that will be unveiled for people exactly like you to get involved in vertical farming.
Hi Kimbal. 2 days ago I asked your mom, Maye, if she wanted to do a Reddit AMA. Did she pass but forward it to you instead? :-)
I'm happy to stand in for my mom anytime. ;)
love your work. Long-time twitter follower. I'm European.
Thank you for doing this AMA.
Love your question #3!
It is the reason I got into food in the first place. When I was a kid the only way I could get my family to sit down and connect was by cooking the meal. If I cooked, then my family would sit down and enjoy it. I've kept that passion all my life and nowadays I cook for my kids and family dinner is my favorite time of the day. I always find time for it.
How do you reconcile the inherently high unit costs of "RealFood" with the need for cheap, calorie-dense food? People can't live off the salad greens they grow in their front yards.
What do you think of Holistic Management/broad-acre Permaculture as a solution to both the food and climate crises?
I wish you were right ZHrolfr! Unfortunately, Industrial Food has been so good at calorie dense food that the issue we deal is not hunger but malnourishment combined with obesity. That is a pretty awful outcome of cheap, calorie dense foods.
Our Industrial Food system did a great job of solving yields for high-calorie, low nutrition foods. We can still learn from them, but the future has to include nutrition in the outcome of our food. I believe with a combination of learning from the past and working towards a #RealFood future, we'll get the prices down and nutrition up and get a balance in our society that everyone is happy with.
Longtime follower of you and Tesla and Leilani (you and I exchanged emails in 2012 before I took delivery of my Model S in Canada, I was worried about the fogging up issue.)
In the past four years I've been eating healthier and been more concerned with foods that could contain carcinogens and other things that could negatively impact health. With the meat scare from last year, we've also reduced our intake of red meat and eat more chicken.
However, I do follow Leilani and her vegan "preachings" and more and more I wonder if I could survive without meat and animal products such as eggs and milk (I LOVE cheese for ex).
My question to you is, I know you eat meat, but could you survive without it and what would it take for you to do so? What is your opinion on going vegan?
Vegan has never really appealed to me. I love food in all its forms and see vegan as an exercise in deprivation that is not truly needed. But I would never tell a vegan to do anything else if that's their personal decision.
For meat, my preference is less and better quality meat. The quantities that we eat are extraordinary and not needed in a healthy diet. One of my favorite examples is our Roasted Veggie Salad at Next Door with lamb kofka. The lamb is only 2-3 oz and it is delicious with the roasted veggies.
Hey Kimbal! One more question....
If you were trapped on an island, and could only survive on one type of food, what food would you choose?
Prosciutto! It will hold up well and I never get tired of eating it. Or maybe Jamon, because it is meant to cut thicker (I'm guessing I won't have a slicer on the island). lol!
What is the most significant thing you've seen your brother be wrong about, and how did he deal with it in the short and long term? Same question for you.
I've been wrong about a few things in my life, but the one thing they have in common is that the answer didn't come from my heart. I dove into businesses that weren't my passion, or I did things out of mania to just keep busy. I've learned over my life to slow down in my thinking and constantly do a check in that what I'm doing really matters to me. It may not be that interesting to other people and that's okay. When I love it, I put 150% of my energy into it, and no matter how things work out, I know I wouldn't have wanted to do anything else.
My question is very simple.
Do you think world hunger can be solved in our lifetimes ?
if it's so... how and when do you think world hunger will be solved ?
Growing up in Africa, the most common reason for hunger was leadership in the government. We have actually been producing enough food for everyone on the planet for decades. We just can't get it to those in need because of the leadership in those countries. And in America, we have so much over supply that we are becoming obese as a society. What's worse is that the food is not nourishing, just high in calories, so people have the awful reality of being fat and hungry at the same time.
With a future of #realfood, I'm really hopeful that we can bring back nourishment into our vocabulary and get people to a happier and healthier place, and solve world hunger at the same time!
Supermarkets and waste: Hi there. I read an article the other day about efforts in Denmark to move near-expired food and "inferior" products to the retail space instead of dumping it. Do you see this trending in other places like the US (or is it already??)
Food waste is the topic of our day. There are so many easy things we can do to make a difference right now. From composting our food waste to finding immediate buyers of expired foods (if a food is expired, you can still cook it the day of expiration without any food safety concern). Sending it to our landfills should be the definition of insanity.
With thoughtful management of food waste and expired food, we can improve our supply of good, healthy #realfood to those in need, and also make a dramatic improvement to food's effect on climate change by keeping it out of landfills!
Hey Kimbal! Realize I'm late to the game here, but I haven't used reddit before! I study agroecology in Sweden, and I've been following you closely for a while.
My question concerns your endeavor to serve 5 dollar & under, cheap, sustainable and local food in a new restaurant concept. What do you think will be the most challenging issues in making this happen? Also, do you hope for it to scale, so that you may one day have restaurants in a majority of large cities in the states - all with local farmers as your partners?
Thanks! Keep up the good work:)
/@robinmeyr on twitter
We have found amazing success in our Next Door restaurant concept, which keeps almost everything under $10. It is a casual dining and our three locations in Colorado we serve about 10,000 people per week, and we do it profitably. Over time we hope to really expand this concept and have it be a #realfood alternative to restaurants like TGI Friday's, Applebees, etc.
Have you ever felt passionate about some collaborative piece of work, and set aside other people's concerns, only to later discover you overlooked a valuable contribution from another person? How did you deal with it?
This is a great question. Honestly if there was one thing that I have always struggled with is collaborating with others. It's not that I haven't. Every business I've ever done has been a collaboration. But it's the hardest part for me.
What I've done to help me be better is to include my peers in the process as early as possible and/or join their process as early as possible. When someone's contribution is missed, and we should not have missed it, I do everything I can do acknowledge this mistake and keep the person inspired to stay a part of the process.
But I believe I'll be learning how to do this better every day of my life until it's time for me to check out. ;)