Eliminating food waste, reducing recidivism and feeding underserved populations -- all lofty goals on their own. But Robert Egger's L.A. Kitchen is tackling all three at once. Egger, 57, founded the company in 2014 "to feed more people, a healthier meal, for less money ... while reinvesting profits back into the community." The Kitchen itself is a nonprofit, but there’s also a for-profit arm -- Strong Food -- that employs graduates of the L.A. Kitchen's training program. Before launching LAK, Egger was the president of DC Central Kitchen for 24 years, a similar endeavor that trained over 1,500 unemployed men and women in the culinary arts.
What about your job most excites you?
Powerfully demonstrating that what society often views as "part of the problem" can be part of a dynamic new solution. L.A. Kitchen take the fruits and vegetables that are deemed unsalable because of cosmetic reasons, and uses them to fuel a culinary arts, job training program for young men and women aging out of foster care and older men and women returning home from prison.
They work alongside volunteers, and together they produce beautiful, healthy snacks and meals for senior centers, addiction recovery programs, kids after-school centers, etc. In our kitchen, all food has power, and all people have potential.
How many hours do you sleep?
As Michael Stipe of REM sang, "I don't sleep, I dream."
What do you eat for breakfast?
My wife Claudia is a juicing machine of love and pulp. I hardly ever leave home without her serving me some wild combination of fruits, veggies and other mysterious compounds … along with a kiss for luck. The best part is the kiss.
If you could pitch to one person, who would it be?
The next president. I would tell him or her that nonprofit businesses and social enterprises like L.A. Kitchen are the third largest employer in America and a major source of outside investment dollars in every community. More to the point, I'd suggest that without arts and culture, communities of faith, healthcare, education and the other things that are produced by nonprofits, no community is economically viable.
In short, there are "no profits without nonprofits." Which is why any economic growth plan for America MUST include the work of nonprofits and for-profits alike.
What’s on your home screen?
I have a personal thing called "Love on the Road." I travel a lot, and when I walk around new cities, I take pictures of hearts in cement, or the word "love," and I send them to Claudia. I've found them everywhere I've gone, so my screen usually features one of them. I like what they represent, and they remind me not to be a judgmental dick.
How often do you exercise?
Everyday. I exercise my brain, spirit and soul relentlessly. Even when I walk, it's more about my being than my body. Flesh fades … flex your soul.
What app can’t you live without?
Touchnote. I adore my family and friends and love sending cards, and this app allows me to use pics I take and turn them into postcards that let them know I'm thinking of them.
What's your favorite city?
L.A. It's the city where the future comes to happen.
What’s the most important company we’ve never heard of?
Silvernest -- group homes for older people is a real trend of the future. As the Boomers age, it's going to be critical for people to find ways to live independently as long as possible -- particularly women, who statistically outlive men. Silvernest is a new business that uses tech to connect people so that they can live together in supportive, joyful and affordable housing. This issue, and this app, will be huge.
Are there any social platforms you refuse to participate in?
I really don't like posting pictures of food or the whole #foodporn thing. I don't begrudge others doing it, but I'm just aware of how many people do without, and I want to be empathetic to those with less.
What are you reading right now?
Issue #8 of She Shreds Magazine, the only guitar magazine dedicated to women who play guitar and bass. I'm a sucker for bad-ass fanzines, and this one features Satomi Matsuzaki of the crazy-bold band, Deerhoof.
Do you think there’s a tech bubble?
I think there's a greed bubble. I dig tech, but the cash-out-big culture that permeates it is just not my thing. I admire people who build things of purpose, on purpose, and use them to enrich as many people's lives as possible, for as long as possible.
Best piece of advice you've been given?
If you chase money, you run forever. If you chase results, money comes to you.
What keeps you up at night?
The fact that there is so little planning about aging in America. As of 1/1/16, 10,000 people a day will turn 70, and many of them won't have enough money in the bank to cover the next 5-10 years. This is profound, and it’s the issue I am most focused on … how do we best include, engage and embrace our elders?
If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
You were right. The Ramones ARE the best band ever.