We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashton Yoon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashton, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
As humans, our minds are predisposed to be attracted towards the creative and the new- what’s the next new phone coming out? New project at work? New dish at my favorite restaurant? And it’s actually been shown that the brain releases dopamine in response to new things and experiences. Entrepreneurship is a career where being creative is your job. You’re developing new things, building new systems, and getting curious about how conventional ways of doing things can be different and better. My company, Antithesis Foods, is a food technology company, which on the surface seems like it would be quite the opposite of creative. Math and science have distinct laws and principles that are widely accepted and taught in schools. However, applying those principles in the complex systems that are the foods we eat, coaxing new behaviors from ingredients, and combining these ingredients in ways not considered before is a great example of the intersection of science and creativity. What are the components of a banana cream pie in terms of ingredients (i.e fruit, sugar, flour, butter)? In terms of flavor notes? How can I recreate something that tastes like a banana cream pie without those ingredients? Questions like these are mentally stimulating and invigorating and I feel lucky that these are some of the parts of what I do every day.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
At Antithesis, we use food processing as a vehicle to produce healthier foods. Typically, heavily processed foods are relatively devoid of nutritional value and high in calories, fat, and/or empty carbohydrates. As consumers we know this, but it’s feels so good and easy just to eat that whole bag of chips or make that sandwich with white bread- it tastes so good! And the fact of the matter is, the majority of people choose foods on how they taste first, health second. Our goal is to produce processed foods that are simultaneously nutrient dense and craveable. Things have to taste good for people to eat them, and if that great taste can come with fiber, protein, and lower calories, we’ve got something special here. Specifically, we are creating healthier versions of products based on commodity crops such as wheat, rice, potato, and corn. Right now we’re focusing on crunchy products (think chips, crackers, granola, cookie pieces, etc.) using legumes as the primary ingredient. This journey was definitely not easy. Our team has been challenged in ways we never anticipated both personally and professionally. Making a physical product is HARD and having it be one that people consume and put in their bodies is a big responsibility. And doing that with a totally new technology is even harder. So a lot of failed production runs, a lot of learnings, and a lot of hard days, weeks, and months. But we stuck to it, through both a deep passion for our mission and also the support of our invaluable advisors, friends, and family. And I think what we’re the most proud of is that we have stuck to what we believe in and have never faltered, even when it would have been easier, faster, and cheaper to do otherwise. Our north star is making healthy and tasty foods based on hard food science, not succumbing to fads that use buzz words to create a healthy halo around something that’s not actually that good for you. My lessons learned? 1) you cannot create great things alone; 2) work with people you trust implicitly; 3) understand what you’re interested in and good at, outsource the rest; 4) no one else but you knows what you want your life to look like.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of the many beauties of LA is that you can drive a couple hours in any direction and you hit a totally different kind of ecosystem. Want to see some forest and snow? Head northeast to Big Bear. Sunny beaches? Hit up Venice Beach in the southwest. Craving the sandy desert? Head east to Joshua Tree. And I think that is so cool and unique and I’ve missed that very much since leaving the city. So if my best friend was visiting, I would take them on an adventure- a couple days each camping in Big Bear, sunbathing in Venice Beach, and hunkering down in a cabin in Joshua Tree, and, of course, eating in LA proper. Don’t even get me started about food, you cannot find such great and diverse (and often cheap!) ethnic food as in LA. Mexican, Japanese, Ethiopian, and Korean are musts (check out El Tauro Taco, Marugame Monzo, Meals by Genet, and Soowon). In terms of drinks, for juice try Beverly Hills juice in WeHo, for coffee try Maru in Los Feliz, and for a night out try getting cocktails at Wolf & Crane then heading to EightyTwo in Little Tokyo for beer and arcade games. One of the best things to do in LA is to walk around! It’s a city notorious for barely any pedestrians because it’s quite widespread, but what I like to do is pick a neighborhood (Venice Beach & Silverlake are some of my faves) and just walk around without a particular destination in mind. You see some of the most interesting sights and people this way (and probably discover some of your favorite spots).
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to dedicate my shoutout to my mom for always encouraging me to follow my interests and instilling in me her deep sense of resilience and tenacity. (Also for raising me in LA, a city that will be part of both of us always.)
Other: Email: email@example.com