Entrepreneur Kimbal Musk on his passion for food

For the inaugural 2016 UBS Philanthropy Forum, Americas —“Daring to innovate,” which took place in September, we brought together extraordinary philanthropists to speak to our clients about the causes they're passionate about. Notable speakers, including actors Hilary Swank and Adrian Grenier and entrepreneurs Dan Barber and Kimbal Musk, among others, offered their unique perspectives while networking with clients. At UBS, we're always connecting our clients to causes and charities they care about so they can make a lasting impact on the world.

In this article, entrepreneur and food enthusiast Kimbal Musk describes his life experiences and how they guide his passion to disrupt the model of the way Americans consume food. And UBS is proud to have connected Kimbal Musk to clients with like passions to realize a shared vision.

On his nonprofit side, Kimbal Musk works to build outdoor Learning Garden classrooms in schools.

As co-founder of The Kitchen, Kimbal Musk sets out daily to disrupt the model of how the typical American eats and the future of food.

But why did the entrepreneur shift from tech—while still serving on the boards of his brother Elon’s companies Tesla and SpaceX—to dedicating his life to food?

“I still sit on the boards of Tesla and SpaceX and will do that for my brother all day long, but food is my passion, so why do anything else?” said Musk. “Picasso has a beautiful quote. He said ‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.’ So if food is my gift, I want to give it away for the rest of my life.”

Musk said that he started cooking as a kid, for his family. “Once I went to university, I would cook for my friends, but I was an entrepreneur and went and built a great company and sold it,” he said. “Once I sold it, I had the financial freedom to go to do whatever I wanted, so I went to New York and learned how to cook.”

Musk had been able to cook for the firefighters after 9/11, which he called an “…extraordinary, intense and traumatic experience.”

“Until I cooked for the firefighters and spent six weeks with them, I saw cooking as a hobby, but I then decided to open a restaurant,” said Musk.

He started off with two restaurants and 17 schools, which he said he treated as a side project until the life-altering experience of breaking his neck while going down a ski hill in 2010.

“I was horizontal for two months,” said Musk. “They fixed me. I still have no feeling in my left fingers, but I won the lottery in that I wasn’t paralyzed [for good].”

He then committed all of his energy to food, with the aim to make everything scalable. Musk’s goal is to operate restaurants that offer affordable real food. For example, his Next Door concepts offer many items for under $10, which he is able to do by working with farmers and supply chains directly.

“We just opened The Kitchen in Memphis,” said Musk. “Now we are experimenting with a restaurant concept where most of the menu is under $5.”

Key takeaways

  • We all want to do our part in making a positive impact on the world.
  • For the greatest satisfaction and personal fulfillment, it's best to ensure your philanthropic efforts are fueled by your passions. Find what you're passionate about and use that energy to change the world for the better.
  • Involving your UBS Financial Advisor can help you achieve greater impact by making philanthropy a part of your overall wealth management strategy.

On his nonprofit side, he works to build outdoor Learning Garden classrooms in schools. “When working with traditional school gardens we realized they were hard to scale,” said Musk. “So we designed a modular, scalable garden solution that could work in any schoolyard.”

These modular Learning Gardens are intentionally built next to playgrounds so that children have direct access to them, while also allowing for teachers to conduct classes in these spaces.

“We just announced a 100 Learning Garden initiative in Indianapolis,” said Musk. “We’ll have an 800-teacher community to teach kids how to garden and to identify different vegetables.”

In fact, the disconnection between what comes from the ground and what ends up on our plates astounds him. “For example, it’s amazing to watch potatoes grow,” said Musk. “Kids will dig through the ground like they’re looking for gold. We have gotten so far removed from where food comes from. There are kids who can’t make the connection between a potato and a French fry. I want to try to change that.”

How can you further your own philanthropic goals and passions and ensure they fit within your overall wealth management plans? Together we can find an answer. Connect with your UBS Financial Advisor or find one.