George Motz, a burly, mutton-chopped Brooklynite, fashions himself as America’s hamburger expert. An enthusiastic carnivore who has chronicled his love affair with ground beef through books and films, Mr. Motz estimates he has eaten more than 14,000 hamburgers over the last 20 years.
But on a frigid Monday in December, Mr. Motz sat down for a burger that promised to be unlike any he had eaten before. He was at Momofuku Nishi, a new restaurant from the celebrity chef David Chang, and he had come to eat the Impossible Burger.
The Impossible Burger wants to be the tech industry’s answer to the Big Mac. Concocted by a team of food scientists in Silicon Valley, it is made from wheat, coconut oil and potatoes, yet it aims to be more than just another veggie patty. Thanks to the addition of heme, an iron-rich molecule contained in blood (which the company produces in bulk using fermented yeast), it is designed to look, smell, sizzle and taste like a beef burger.
Patrick Brown, the founder and chief executive of Impossible Foods, said the goal was to disrupt the multibillion-dollar market for ground beef without killing cows. “You can have uncompromisingly delicious meat without using animals,” Mr. Brown said in an interview.
Mr. Brown, a former biochemist at Stanford who founded Impossible Foods about six years ago, said that in blind taste tests, some people could not distinguish between the Impossible Burger and a beef patty. And in an informal tasting organized by The New York Times, the reactions were generally positive.
At Momofuku Nishi, Mr. Motz knew what he was getting. The Impossible Burger arrived on a squishy white bun, topped with a slice of American cheese, lettuce and tomato, fries on the side.
“It looks real,” Mr. Motz said, picking up the burger and examining it. “It feels like the right weight.”
And with that, he took a big bite, chewed vigorously and stared into the distance.
For Impossible Foods to succeed, Mr. Brown will need to win over meat eaters like Mr. Motz. “No disrespect to vegetarians,” Mr. Brown said, “but the only consumers we really care about are meat consumers.”