UC Berkeley's Philip Stark (left), Mark Bittman and UC Berkeley's Tom Carlson foraging in West Oakland. Photo: University of California
Mark Bittman (center), shown here with Philip Stark (left) and Tom Carlson (right) both of UC Berkeley, has joined two startup ventures. Photo: University of California

The news broke Monday morning that cookbook author and former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, who recently relocated to Berkeley, is joining the Boston-based meal kit company The Purple Carrot as its chief innovation officer.

Bittman also has his hands in the East Bay start-up scene, however. As of today, Bittman has joined the board of Oakland-based Josephine, the self-described “Etsy for food” that connects enterprising home cooks to hungry eaters around the East Bay and San Francisco. Bittman has been a friend of the Josephine founders since moving to the Bay Area in early 2015.

“We’re thrilled to have Mark join our board of advisors,” said Josephine CEO Charley Wang in an email. “Josephine is trying to help home cooks better nourish their local communities, a behavior that Mark has been emphasizing the importance of for much of his career. We’re proud to be partnering in the movement for a more equitable food system, and hope to be another reason to get Mark back to the Bay Area as much as possible.”

Josephine founders Tal Safran (left) and Charley Wang. Photo: Julie Hotz
Josephine founders Tal Safran (left) and Charley Wang. Photo: Julie Hotz

Both Josephine and The Purple Carrot have a similar end-goal — getting more good food into homes across the Bay and the country.

The Purple Carrot launched its West Coast delivery services Monday, in conjunction with the Bittman announcement. Like other meal-kit services, such as Blue Apron, The Purple Carrot provides the raw starting ingredients for recipes in pre-measured amounts. The ingredients are packaged and shipped, and customers prepare the meals at home. Unlike other services, however, The Purple Carrot is entirely vegan, and its ingredients are “of the highest possible quality, often organic, always non-GMO, and ethically sourced,” according to the company website.

Bittman’s role at The Purple Carrot will primarily be “making sure the food is mind-blowing,” he told Inside Scoop. His recipes, such as whole-wheat penne with cauliflower, raw Brussels sprouts and toasted breadcrumbs, will be featured as a part of the meal service. Bittman will also help in other parts of the business, such as raising capital, ensuring quality control and improving sustainability practices. In a Q&A with TIME, Bittman explained his decision this way: “The Purple Carrot is an opportunity to help people change for the better; it’s not about “giving up meat,” but about adding some wonderful meals to your diet every week, meals that happen to be vegan.”

One of Bittman's recipes for The Purple Carrot is a whole wheat penne pasta with raw Brussels sprouts. Photo: The Purple Carrot
One of Bittman’s recipes for The Purple Carrot is a whole-wheat penne pasta with raw Brussels sprouts. Photo: Aya Bracket
One of Bittman’s recipes for The Purple Carrot is a whole-wheat penne pasta with raw Brussels sprouts. Photo: Aya Bracket

As he wrote in an essay on the company website, Bittman says that he connected with the idea of starting a meal kit company “whose primary goal was not to make money but to save the planet and help us restore our collective health.”

“The benefits of vegan meal kits are profound,” he continued. “We can connect farmers and cooks in new ways; we can encourage everyone to eat better; we can improve health, help weight loss strategies, and reduce environmental impact. … But the main idea is to make the healthy, principled, and good-tasting choice the easy one. That’s the mission, and it’s consistent with what I’ve long done: try to get more people cooking better food.”

Berkeleyside reached out to Bittman for comment but had not heard back by press time. Bittman’s latest cookbook, published on Oct. 27, is “The Kitchen Matrix,” a collection of more than 400 recipes covering vegetables, fruits, meats and chicken and desserts.

Connect with Josephine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Connect with The Purple Carrot on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Mark Bittman: Berkeley has got a hold on him (06.12.15)
Mark Bittman: Why I’m coming to UC Berkeley (12.29.14)

Connect with NOSH on Facebook, follow NOSH on Twitter and Instagram, and sign up for the free NOSH Weekly email.

Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...