Top Chef Tom Colicchio Backs ‘Disruptive’ Mycelium Meat Producer

Tom Colicchio vegan meat company Meati Foods

Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio is embracing the culinary magic of fungi. The cooking show judge has backed Meati Foods—a vegan meat company that makes proteins from mycelium, the root structure of a fungus, like mushrooms.

“I am excited to announce that I’ve joined the team at Meati Foods,” he said. “I’m so thrilled to be part of the team bringing this incredible new food to the world, and can’t wait to start sharing it.”

Founded in 2016, the Colorado-based startup creates vegan steak and chicken breast from the mycelium of a mushroom commonly found in nature, according to the website. Called Meati, the mycelium-based proteins look, cook, and taste similar to animal-derived meat.

Colicchio is a food advocate who regularly speaks about issues plaguing the global food supply chain, such as food waste. He aims to tackle the issue of food insecurity through the new partnership, which he hopes will help make healthier, plant-based foods more accessible.

Compared to conventional meat, Meati, which secured $50 million in Series B funding this summer, offers a more sustainable method of feeding consumers. “Our process is nearly 20 times more productive per acre than soy,” said co-founder and CTO Justin Whiteley. “At scale, we could produce the meat equivalent of nearly 4,200 cows per day.”

Tom Colicchio backs vegan meat company

So, how is the mushroom meat made? Meati Foods grows its own mycelium indoors in stainless steel fermentation tanks using only water, sugar, and nutrients. Unlike the animal agriculture industry, no antibiotics, growth hormones, or pesticides are used.

“Because our fermented fungi naturally mimic meat, we do not have to introduce harsh chemicals, complex processes or numerous ingredients into our products,” Whiteley explained.

The mycelium is then harvested using techniques that are similar to cheesemaking. The protein- and fiber-rich mushrooms are then formed into whole cuts and marinated using natural ingredients.

Companies are also embracing mycelium’s versatility beyond the scope of food. In addition to meat, it is now being used to make leather, houses, foam, and more. As it pertains to food, a number of other companies are utilizing mushrooms to make meat, such as Atlast Food Co., which uses mycelium to make bacon, and UK-based brand Quorn, which uses mycoprotein, a fermented ingredient derived from a fungus.

Meati Foods plans to have its mycelium-based meat available at sites across the country by 2022.