When Nick Taranto ’06 began working in New York City, his demanding schedule made it difficult to continue his passion for cooking, which he considers to be an essential human experience. Dissatisfied with options for eating out and ordering in, he teamed up with Harvard Business School classmate Josh Hix to launch Plated, an e-commerce company that seeks to make cooking convenient.
Plated offers a weekly set of chef-designed meals. The company delivers ingredients, portioned and measured, to customers’ homes, and each dinner takes 30 minutes or less to prepare.
“We are trying to break down those barriers and make it as easy as possible for people to reconnect with cooking and with that fantastic experience of building a meal and sharing together,” he said.
Taranto dreams of shaking up an industry, and believes the food industry is primed for change.
“We saw the food system as being horribly broken and analog and operating some 30 years in the past,” he said.
Taranto and Hix began working on Plated last March. They launched a test site in June and the full version in October.
Taranto drew from personal experience and concluded that working city professionals have limited choices for dinner, either eating out or ordering in.
“To us, neither of those options was great,” he said “They’re expensive, and not that healthy, and clearly not that edifying at all.”
Plated is growing at a significant rate and recently expanded to another warehouse in order to meet demand, Taranto said.
“There’s been an overwhelmingly strong response from customers, which has been really edifying, and it makes you really excited to get up every morning because I know we are doing something that is making people’s lives better,” he said.
James Joun ’03, one of Plated’s first customers, said that the quality of the food was excellent, and the instructions were easy to follow.
“Once I made the food, I was actually surprised that it tasted so good,” he said.
Taranto leads business development, fundraising, marketing and operations, while Hix is develops the company’s website and handles online analytics.
Over the next few months, Plated will develop new partnerships in a number of different industries and build a suite of digital products to accompany the cooking experience.
“What we pride ourselves on is to move really quickly and to be very flexible and to listen to our customers as much as possible,” he said.
Hix said that Plated has the potential to grow into a large successful company.
“It’s seven days a week for us and will be for a long, long time,” he said. “We want to grow this into a huge business that can have an impact on society and help people really reconnect with how they are eating and what they are eating.”
The company currently employs seven full-time workers and six interns and contractors.
Joun, who first met Taranto on the rugby team at Dartmouth and later attended Harvard Business School with him, said that Plated is an “incredible” idea.
“They have the drive and the smarts to really be a success,” he said.
Nichola Tucker ’08 said Taranto has succeeded in various pursuits and is passionate about food since she knew him at the College.
“Whatever he does doesn’t really surprise me,” she said. “He latches onto a big idea and executes it pretty well.”
At Dartmouth, Taranto majored in geography, was heavily involved in the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club and participated in trail running.
Taranto said his time at the College helped him realize the three elements he wanted to focus on in his career: impact, adventure and building.
During his senior year, he pursued a senior fellowship in war photography, creating a portfolio of photos and authoring an essay on rebuilding communities in disaster zones. He conducted research and took pictures in Thailand, Burma, Sumatra and post-Hurricane Katrina Mississippi to complete his project.
After Dartmouth, he received a Fulbright grant to return to Indonesia for a year. There, he taught English part-time and started a micro-finance group.
He later returned to the U.S. and earned a MBA and MPA from Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
The military leaders he met at Harvard inspired him to join the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantry officer, he said.
He said he spent one year on off-duty training before becoming an active reservist.
After completing infantry training, he worked as a private wealth advisor at Goldman Sachs. Taranto said he left finance to pursue e-commerce opportunities last year, after feeling dissatisfied at the firm.
“It was really soulless and passionless,” he said. “There was no broader mission. It was only about the money.”