The story was first published in September.

The oil-and-gas venture capitalist made his first million dollars by the age of 30. The father of two could drive a red BMW M3 race car while he lived in the wealthy suburbs of Orange County.

He said he could pay for a cleaner life. His mother died of cancer and he gave up red meat. He said he ate several pounds of red meat a week. He said the change to a plant-based diet made him stronger, more energetic, and less stressed.

He was eating a plant-based diet to help cut carbon emissions while also making money from the oil-and-gas sector.

Going from oil and gas and drilling wells in the earth to pushing anything plant-based is antithetical to the idea of a sustainable world.

He quit his job in order to open a restaurant that served plant-based burgers. His wife created the recipes for the burgers. Whole Foods Market and Alex Payne were the first to invest in the brand. The Next Level Burger brand grew to nine restaurants in six states.

Payne and his wife, Nicole Brodeur, led the $20 million raise. The funds will be used to reach 28 locations by the year 25.

The goal of the fast-growing sector is to take share away from McDonald's by becoming a brand that people flock to because its burgers are delicious and affordable.

He wants the question to be "Why wouldn't you?" rather than "Why would you eat plant-based?"

Next Level Burger
Next Level Burger patties are made of quinoa and mushrooms. The chain also has a burger made with Beyond Meat.
Next Level Burger

Whole Foods took the chain to the next level

After quitting his job at VC, Degruyter moved his family to Oregon to start Next Level Burger.

He had invested in the oil-and-gas sector and the startup opened in the summer of 2014). The prototype was tested in central Oregon.

It is a place of skiing and snowboarding, mountain biking and kayaking.

The expansion was made possible by Serendipity. Two months after the restaurant opened, Payne and Brodeur walked in.

The investment in Next Level was made by Payne and Brodeur. After the opening of the second restaurant in Portland, the lines were out the door for days.

Whole Foods Market was put on notice by the Portland success. In July of last year, the two companies collaborated to open a plant-based burger joint in a Whole Foods store. Whole Foods became the biggest investor with a minority stake.

Next Level needed the investment to grow. Whole Foods stores in Oregon, Texas, New York, California, and Washington have six Next Level restaurants.

The world wouldn't have been ready for NLB in 2014 without Whole Foods and other pioneers.

Next Level plans to go after McDonald's

80% of Next Level's customers are not vegan or vegetarian, according to the 40 year old.

At the end of the day, you don't get too far preaching to the choir.

Diners have choices. Next Level is not the only vegan or plant-based restaurant chain in the US, there are other chains as well. Kevin Hart has a restaurant in Los Angeles called Hart House.

He sees other plant-based chains as allies. He said that anyone pushing climate change in the right direction would be on our side of the field.

Fast-food chains that add plant-based burgers and chicken to their menu are not the same as those that do not.

He wants to take market share away from Mcdonald's and the Red Robins.