“Community through food” is the philosophy that weaves through the Kitchen Restaurant Group’s collection of local eateries. The company’s first venture, The Kitchen American Bistro, was founded in Boulder in 2004 by chef Hugo Matheson, Kimbal Musk and Jen Lewin. It established a place for the community to gather over great meals, prepared with locally sourced ingredients.
The Kitchen launched at a time when farm-to-table wasn’t yet a common endeavor. “Local farmers were hesitant to work with restaurants,” explains Musk. “Hugo, my co-founder, was instrumental in our work with local farmers. ... We worked very hard to make sure they could trust us to purchase their food consistently and honestly.”
The Kitchen’s menu—and that of its sister eatery Hedge Row in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood—is created around the seasonality and availability of local products. “At Next Door, we develop the menu based on affordability and speed while still keeping strong with our philosophy to source delicious ingredients from American farmers,” adds Courtney Walsh, the Kitchen’s public relations and marketing director.
“The Kitchen Restaurant Group has long been ahead of its time on sustainable efforts,” says Walsh. In addition to being Colorado’s first business powered by wind energy, the group’s sustainability efforts extend to composting, recycling, eco-friendly packaging, preserving, canning and curing.
Impacting Future Generations
While Kimbal Musk’s brother, Elon Musk, is making strides in advancing our sustainable technology and transportation industry, Kimbal is boldly taking on our food sector through community-oriented initiatives.
“Hugo and I have been concerned by the growing childhood-obesity epidemic in this country,” says Musk. “We started out supporting a traditional school garden program and saw the impact that one school garden had on a small community.”
After a serious accident in 2010 left Musk with a broken neck, he realized he wanted to do more. The Kitchen Community’s Learning Gardens nonprofit launched in 2011, and has since expanded to 400 schools nationwide.
“Learning Gardens redefine student connection to food by providing an opportunity to plant, care, harvest and prepare food in an engaging academic setting,” explains Musk.
Furthering the mission to create a sustainable food environment within communities, Musk and business partner Tobias Peggs launched Square Roots in 2016. The accelerator program for urban hydroponic farmers currently operates in Brooklyn, N.Y., with plans to expand to other cities.
“There’s an opportunity for smart young entrepreneurs to build a new, smart food system that supplies the natural, local food people are demanding,” says Musk. “I hope that, in my lifetime, I will see an entire generation of kids growing and eating real food.”