Toasted ravioli aside, St. Louis is not generally known for cutting-edge gastronomy. "What's ever been new out of St. Louis for environmentally sustainable food?" Burgess asks rhetorically. "Nothing comes from here. Nothing good, anyway."

In the past year, Match's sales have doubled, forcing Burgess to leave the DiGregorio plant and move to Lucia's, which is large enough to accommodate demand.

"This is a totally groundbreaking product," says Whole Foods' Mell. "It's not like the way you look at tortilla chips, like someone makes a cilantro-lime flavor, and then everybody is doing it. It's not like [Burgess] reinvented the wheel. It's like she created a completely new wheel."

Allison Burgess, founder of Match Foods, at her farm in Dittmer, Missouri.
Allison Burgess, founder of Match Foods, at her farm in Dittmer, Missouri.

Location Info

Map

Vin De Set Rooftop Bar and Bistro

2017 Chouteau Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Lafayette Square

Terrene

33 N. Sarah St.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

Lucas Park Grille

1234 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Washington Avenue

Schlafly Bottleworks

7260 Southwest Ave
Maplewood, MO 63143

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: Maplewood

Chris' Pancake & Dining

5980 SW Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

The Royale

3132 S. Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - South City

Duff's Restaurant

392 N. Euclid Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

The Market at Busch's Grove-CLOSED

9160 Clayton Road
Ladue, MO 63124

Category: Grocery Stores

Region: Ladue

Helen Fitzgerald's

3650 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Sunset Hills, MO 63127

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Crestwood/ Sunset Hills/ Sappington/ South Lindbergh

Whole Foods Market-Town and Country

1160 Town and Country Crossing Road
Town & Country, MO 63017

Category: Retail

Region: Town & Country

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Still, when most people think of meat substitutes, they think of products like Boca and Morningstar. "I find these foods never taste very good," e-mails Martha Rose Shulman, who writes the "Recipes for Health" column in the New York Times. "There's always a salty or manufactured aftertaste.

"I can't predict what the success of Match meat might be," she continues, "but I can tell you how I myself feel about vegetarian meat products: I see them as processed food and no healthier than meat that has been raised in a humane and sustainable fashion."

Other meat substitutes have hit the market and failed miserably; the founders of the industry pioneer Gardenburger declared bankruptcy in 2005 before they sold out to Kellogg. Still, some food writers think Match may have a chance, even in the face of the whole-food movement.

"A product like Match targets a very different group than the locavore movement," observes Andrew Smith, a food writer who teaches courses on culinary history at New School University in New York City. "There are 8 million vegetarians out there, and most are not locavores. Vegetarians don't have much of a choice about what they eat. A large number are into locavore and organic food, but animal rights is the biggest factor, and that's the target market."

"It's a niche product," agrees Laura Shapiro, the author of several books about food history, most recently Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America. "Everything is a niche product. It's what the food revolution has brought us. [Burgess] definitely has her finger on the pulse of a few niches. She's in closer touch with the consumer than people in focus groups. [Match] is not in any food category. It's something else, and something else is a popular choice for Americans."

However, Shapiro is not completely convinced that Match will change the way people look at meat. "It requires you to think of food in a slightly different way, and people adopt changes that radical very slowly." She notes that the anticipated microwave-cooking revolution of the 1980s never happened. "It was so different from cooking — it was too different. People didn't glom onto it. They had no reason to."

To get people outside of St. Louis to eat Match, Burgess and Holland will have to continue to do what they've done here: Put the product in people's mouths. To that end, they're hiring culinary liaisons in Chicago, students at local cooking schools who will introduce Match to chefs and consumers through restaurant visits and in-store cooking demonstrations.

"We don't want to get it in supermarkets and then have it just sit there," Burgess explains. "Which is what would happen if we didn't have a sustained marketing effort."

So far, Match remains a very local product. Burgess has only recently begun to send out press releases to the Chicago media, which is the only reason food writers at the Chicago Tribune and Chicago magazine have even heard the name. "What is it again?" asks Kim Gracen, executive chef at the Chicago Diner, a vegetarian institution in Chicago for more than 25 years. "I've never heard of it. I make my own stuff in-house."

"We would have grown a lot faster if we'd been on the coasts," Burgess admits. "But that's OK. We needed time to test it."

Predicts the Market at Busch's Grove's Clint Whittemore: "If it can do well in this market, in California, Oregon and Colorado, it'll explode."

So confident is Burgess that Match will extend beyond the Midwest in the next year or so, she's begun to scout locations for another production plant, on the East or West Coast.

Meanwhile, Burgess is still tweaking the Match formula and plans to expand the product's range to include lamb, ham and bacon. "One of the hardest things to develop — one of the things we haven't done yet — is those long muscle strands, like you find in filets and tenderloins. Another thing we haven't done is duplicate the flavor of saturated fat in the mouth."

Nothing has altered the primary goal of Match since the first day Burgess sat down in her kitchen. "It's got to taste good. If it doesn't taste good, people aren't going to want to eat it." She leans forward, as she's wont to do when making an important point. "This is going to be big."

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