Celebrity Chef Spike Mendelsohn on ‘Food as a Right, Not a Privilege’

by Dara Klatt

Star chef Spike Mendelsohn is known for his local District-area restaurants Good Stuff Eatery; We, the Pizza; and most recently, PLNT Burger, which is housed at the Whole Foods in Silver Spring, South Capitol and soon Columbia, Md. He also chairs the city’s Food Policy Council on behalf of Mayor Bowser to work on what he describes as a “more engaged food system and treating food as a right and not a privilege.” It’s a mission that, in the current pandemic, is ever more critical. We spoke with Mendelsohn on the state of the industry, food safety measures, tips to be “healthy-ish” and the silver lining in all of this. >>

What do you want people to understand about the food industry overall right now? I really hope that people realize how important our food system is and how critical it is to our communities. Small businesses, farmers, purveyors, back of the house staff and front of the house staff are all taking a hit. My hope is that people just come out of all of this with more kindness for each other. Restaurant workers don’t have the luxury of remote work.

How are you handling?

PLNT Burger is in a unique situation for a few reasons. First, being located inside of a Whole Foods has allowed us to stay open to service the community. Second, we have a very small staff who have been enthusiastic about our growth, even through these times.We view it as a service to the community and just opened a second location to help service other parts of the community.

Discuss your updated safety measures.

We have removed pagers, drink machines and the ice cream cone option. We are disinfecting every ten minutes, a total wipe down. We are following CDC guidelines and making sure our employees are healthy and willing to work.

Tips for people eating at home now?

I hope they educate themselves more on what food they are putting into their bodies, where it is coming
from and how it is being prepared. Taking more of an interest in what is fueling your body is important. Having a home garden is a great way to have control over some of what you are eating. It’s also a great way to get kids involved and loving their veggies!

What does “healthy-ish” mean?

Mindful indulgence. Why is eating delicious food sometimes associated with being unhealthy?
That is just not the case, especially with all the ingredients we have to work with these days. I always say “everything in moderation” when it comes to your food choices. A balanced healthy-
ish diet is the way to go.

Is this the reason you chose to open a restaurant, Vim & Victor, at a sports and wellness facility?
It was a pivot in lifestyle. I wanted to be more active in my life, incorporate more wellness to my mind and enjoy more time with my wife and son for my soul. The St. James gave me that opportunity. Packaging it all around Vim & Victor—where three pillars of success for us in our food and beverage program were “Healthy/
Hearty/Hydration”—made sense.

Let’s talk about other goals like food waste. We, The Pizza has been working with the Food Rescue organization on food donation. Why is this so important?

Food waste is a huge concern. We grow so much food that goes to waste and landfills. Food Rescue is a great
organization that comes in and gathers all the extra waste a restaurant or business may have
and makes sure it immediately goes to people in need. We, The Pizza has been a great champion of this program and has managed to make sure all of our extra slices go without waste.

What tips do you give families to avoid food waste at home?

Make it a challenge and have fun. Dig into the cabinets and see what’s hiding and make meals out of the scraps in the fridge, combine leftovers and compost the rest.

What silver linings do you foresee as a result of the pandemic? This is another opportunity
for the world to not only consider the way that food is being produced but also what food is being produced. The health of people, animals and the environment need to be considered. I truly believe that we will see a rise in the plant-based food movement.


2 lbs. Beyond Meat, ground
1 Spanish onion, diced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
4 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups black beans, rinsed
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
4 cups chipotle BBQ sauce
1/3 cup Cajun spice
1/2 cup ground cumin
1/2 cup sunflower oil
TT salt and pepper

In a large rondo heat up 1 cup of sunflower oil until smoking hot, add the beyond meat and brown. Break up the meat with a whisk so there is no large chunks. Take the meat out and strain out the access oil. In the same rondo heat up the other 1 cup of sunflower oil add the onions, garlic and season with salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes until onions are soft and translucent. Add the meat back into the pan, add the cumin and cajun spice stir and add in the beans, tomatoes, chocolate and bbq sauce. Stir and let simmer for 45 minutes, stir continuously. Season with salt and pepper.


*Takeaway and delivery options for PLNT Burger on DoorDash, GrubHub, Uber Eats and Postmates.

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