Apr 26, 2022
Acclaimed chef Spike Mendelsohn first made his name as a contestant in the cooking competition TV series “Top Chef” before establishing himself as a well-known restaurateur and television personality. As he becomes increasingly immersed in the emerging world of NFTs, however, he may end up being just as recognized as the co-creator of CHFTY Pizza, an online community that connects chefs with foodies and fans.
Launched earlier this year, CHFTY Pizza was developed in partnership with Tom Colicchio, the longtime "Top Chef" host and founder of restaurant group Crafted Hospitality. In March, CHFTY sold its first collection of NFTs, which Mendelsohn described as avatars of “a ‘foolish’ pizza slice.” The sale raised over $500,000 and established a funding base for CHFTY, whose stated mission is to “bridge the hole between the food-and-beverage neighborhood and web3.”
In an interview featured in this episode, Mendelsohn, who is also co-founder of better-for-you fast food chain PLNT Burger and sustainable snack brand Eat The Change, described himself as an advocate for chefs and restaurateurs and urged the importance of being ahead of the curve on NFTs and Web3.
“[Web3] is no different, to me, than being in the kitchen at a young age,” Mendelsohn said. And my best advice is to keep your eyes wide open and ask as many questions as you can. And that’s how you learn.”
Our conversation with Mendelsohn chronicled his early years as a professional chef, how he leveraged his “Top Chef” fame to build a collection of restaurants in Washington D.C. and the development of PLNT Burger, which he launched with Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman. He also discussed the creation and mission of Eat The Change, which he also co-founded with Goldman, and the challenges associated with starting a packaged food brand. Mendelsohn also spoke about how the pandemic sparked his interest in cryptocurrency and the idea for CHFTY PIzza, his thoughtful strategy for amassing interest in the adopters of the project and what he views as the ultimate goals for CHFTY.
0:49: Spike Mendelsohn, Co-Founder, PLNT Burger, Eat The Change & CHFTY Pizzas – Mendelsohn’s expansive interview with BevNET founder/CEO John Craven began with the chef’s family history in the restaurant industry and his work as a classically trained chef, his shock at the rigorous pace and schedule for “Top Chef” and how he worked with his sister to capitalize his fame from the show. Later, he discussed the origins of PLNT Burger and how the chain expanded from its first location as a kiosk in Whole Foods to nine stores during the pandemic, how the concept of Eat The Change was born and why working with co-manufacturers was surprising to him. Mendelsohn also discussed his early experience as a cryptocurrency investor, the impact that Atari had on how he perceived the metaverse and NFTs, getting Colicchio on board for CHFTY Pizza, how he has learned from missteps and how collaborations and an emphasis on building micro-communities has helped build a foundation for the project.