For more than three decades, Marty Krutolow was a commercial and charter pilot. However, in July 2017, the 62-year-old ventured into the vegan restaurant industry thanks to his Marty’s V Burger, located in New York City. After a few years of selling his signature burgers and drumsticks on the local festival and market circuits, Krutolow found a storefront in late 2015 and began a renovation process that lead to more than a year-long delayed opening. Currently, Krutolow’s burger—which is made with seitan, rice, and beans—is helping him live his greatest passion (serving vegan food) while helping to promote a cruelty-free lifestyle. We spoke to Krutolow about his passion for food and how he went from being an airline pilot to serving plant-based burgers.
VegNews: Your family history is interesting for a vegan fast-food entrepreneur.
Marty Krutolow: My grandfather, among other jobs, was a butcher in Brooklyn, and my stepfamily from Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn) was very involved with fishing. I started working on the boats when I was 8, selling beer and soda and cleaning fish for tips. I did it for years, and I’d get on the bus home covered in fish guts.
VN: How did piloting planes across the United States help inspire your idea for Marty’s V Burger?
MK: As a pilot, I was faced with the challenge of eating vegan on the road. I’m a junk-food guy, and there was definitely no one operating in the vegan fast-food space, so the idea for Marty’s was born from that. Flying plane-loads of people to vacation spots or chartering the “one percent” around wasn’t going to change the world, but helping to save animals is a pretty great thing to do.
VN: Why did you develop your own vegan burger?
MK: I was still working as a pilot when I began noodling around in the kitchen. I had been making my own seitan for about 15 years, and a key for me was I didn’t want a grainy, squishy burger, but one that had a certain consistency as close to a (fast-food) burger as I could. About five years ago, I did my first tasting of the burger and drumsticks for my daughter’s class and their parents, and about six months later, I had a booth at the Vegetarian Food Festival in Chelsea selling only the drumsticks. I then started selling the burgers at different events around New York City, but the benchmark for me was the winter of 2015–2016 at the Bryant Park holiday market. We were selling like crazy to the general public, not just to vegans and vegetarians, and it was then that I knew we could be successful and quickly found a storefront.
VN: About the time you opened, two plant-based burgers gained media attention for taste and texture. So, what is your opinion of Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger?
MK: I think the more products that come as close as possible to replicating the flavors and consistency of the foods we grew up with, the better it is for the animals.
VN: You sell both, in addition to your own burger?
MK: Yes. The decision-making involved was to get more omnivores to eat a vegan meal. It’s about the bottom line while keeping the price-point as low as possible, making the food available to a greater number of people. The Impossible and Beyond burgers help with that. I love them both, but, of course, mine is still my favorite and the most affordable.
VN: What are your plans for the future?
MK: Business is slowly but surely getting better and better. The plan has always been to scale the business up. Wholesale, retail, open more units … though a second store right now is just a thought. We’re getting a shake machine in the near future, so we’ll truly be able to say, ”burgers, fries, and shakes.”
VN: And mac & cheeze, crabby patty, Cajun cheezy peppersteak, and kale salad?
Mickey Kramer lives in Manhattan with Tilly, his 15-and-a-half-year-old rescue pittie mix, who has been vegan half her life!
Photo courtesy of Marty’s V Burger