‘Harold and Kumar’ actor Kal Penn shares why he backed the startup behind Silicon Valley’s favourite ‘bleeding’ veggie burger, which is now at White Castle

Ashley Sears for Impossible Foods
  • Kal Penn, the actor who played Kumar in the 2004 cult comedy “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” now has a reason to return to the burger chain in real life.
  • This week, the chain is adding Silicon Valley’s favourite “bleeding” veggie burger from startup Impossible Foods to the menu at all of its nearly 400 restaurants.
  • Impossible Foods’ veggie burger sizzles and tastes like a beef burger thanks to key ingredient heme, and is backed by Bill Gates and Richard Branson.

Kumar is going back to White Castle – this time for a Bill Gates-backed veggie burger that “bleeds.”

Kal Penn, the actor who played Kumar in the 2004 cult comedy “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” now has a reason to return to the burger chain in real life: the long-time vegetarian can chow down on veggie Impossible Burger sliders, which will be available at all of its nearly 400 restaurants nationwide starting Wednesday.

“This is something that’s like, ‘Hey you can have the same meat burger – with all the flavour, texture, everything – it’s just not made from a cow, and by the way it’s way better for you and for the planet,'” Penn told Business Insider.

Backed by investors including Bill Gates and Richard Branson, the Impossible Burger sizzles and “bleeds” just like a traditional beef burger when cooked – only the patty is made from vegetarian ingredients like wheat protein and the essential nutrient heme.

After trying the Impossible Burger for the first time in New York and mistaking it for a beef burger, Penn called up a friend, Jake Crumbine, who’d taken on a role as the head of partnerships at Impossible Foods. When he found out how the company was making “legitimate meat from plants,” using heme, he decided to invest a small amount in the company.

“I thought I should probably put my money where my mouth is,” Penn said.

From homemade veggie patties to Impossible sliders

Impossible foods plant based burger 6Impossible FoodsThe Impossible Burger.

For the film, “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” set workers had to make miniature vegetarian patties to swap out for the beef sliders in the final scene where Harold and Kumar order their meal.

“The person in charge of props went out of her way to make little mini veggie burgers for me,” said Penn. “Who would have thought that 14 years later we could be using Impossible Sliders?”

Before rolling out the veggie sliders across all of its restaurants, White Castle tested them out in a six-month pilot at a selection of locations. To White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram’s surprise, White Castle fans, or “cravers,” loved it.

So the company decided to make the patties available at all of their restaurants for $US1.99.

White Castle isn’t the only chain that’s had success in adding the Impossible Burger to its menu. Fatburger, a regional chain loved by stars like Nicki Minaj and Kanye West, has been “selling the Impossible Burger like crazy,” since adding it to its lineup last year, Andy Weiderhorn, the CEO of parent company Fat Brands Inc., told Business Insider.

“We’ve had a whole crop of people who come to our restaurants looking for the Impossible Burger, either never knowing we had veggie burgers before or looking for it specifically,” Weiderhorn said.

That’s something that can’t be said of most vegetarian fast-food options.

“You no longer have to make a choice between something that’s environmentally conscious and something that tastes really good,” Penn said.

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