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Food For Thought How persistence and passion turned a new idea into a multimillion-dollar business

By Paul Wenner

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this excerpt, Paul Wenner, founder of Wholesome and HeartyFoods, recalls his accidental invention of the vegetarianGardenburger and his struggle to turn the idea into a business.

It was 1981, and at last, I was going to realize my dream--theopening of a gourmet vegetarian restaurant. The GardenhouseRestaurant [in Gresham, Oregon,] opened to good reviews. Like allrestaurateurs, I was soon faced with [the problem of] what to dowith the leftovers. My solution was something I called the"Gardenloaf Sandwich," made of leftover vegetables andrice pilaf. Later, I got the idea of slicing up the loaf into whatlooked like patties--and suddenly the Gardenburger was born.

Grilled and placed in a hamburger bun, it was an instantsuccess. [Soon,] one out of every two lunches sold was aGardenburger. Cholesterol consciousness was just beginning to buildin the early 1980s, and I'd truly found the "food for thetimes."