FAST COMPANY | Most Innovative Companies

In many homes, the kitchen is a hub of activity, the place where parents cook meals, kids do homework at the table, and pets hover underfoot for scraps. It’s the place everyone wants to be. When Hugo Matheson, Kimbal Musk (brother of Tesla founder Elon Musk), and Jen Lewin launched The Kitchen in 2004, they were striving to recreate the sense of community that permeates a home kitchen. Years later, the concept has grown to include a group of eight intimate restaurants, pubs, and cocktail lounges in Denver and Chicago. More than just a feel-good location, the restaurants are entrenched in their communities, employing local craftsman to build the locations, and serving high-end sustainably harvest food and drink from nearby farms and ranches. As The Kitchen strives to have a minimal negative environmental impact on those communities, the locations also employ wind power, composting, recycling and eco-friendly packaging. But it doesn’t stop there. The company uses a portion of its dining profits to fund a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Big Green, which has created more than 200 hands-on “Learning Gardens” at schools in four states. The goal is to transform 100 communities over the next 50 years, teaching children the virtues of healthy eating and bringing people together. Next up: Memphis, where Musk has secured a low interest $10 million loan–a “community bond”–from several private foundations to open up to five new restaurants that will create nearly 300 jobs and hopes to tackle the city’s 32% obesity rate.

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