In order to make the case for a kitchen incubator in Montgomery county, it is important to know who will benefit and how. With that in mind, I interviewed three types of food entrepreneurs: a food truck owner, a baker, and a caterer. I discovered how they would find a kitchen incubator useful and whether or not they believe it would help others in Montgomery County. Using this information, we can simulate how kitchen incubators will benefit us.
The food truck BBQ Bus is located in D.C. It sells lunch and dinner items such as barbecue ribs and pulled pork sandwiches, but on wheels. The truck travels around and often tweets their locations to share it with customers. “Shared space like what’s offered at Union Kitchen is great, especially for businesses just starting out,” said co-owner Che Ruddell-Tabisola. In fact, BBQ Bus currently shares a kitchen incubator with two other food trucks. The rise of the kitchen incubator would be useful for them and other food trucks so they could have a preparation space and insight from other trucks on how to run their business, promoting the “incubation” of businesses through this concept.
Karen Robert’s, a food entrepreneur and baker, founded KarenKay’s Cakes. I asked her for her opinion on shared kitchens and how they would help her. “It would be the best thing to happen for an entrepreneur like myself. When I first started my business, finding an affordable kitchen to cook out of was my biggest dilemma,” she said. Her businesses mainly sells at farmers markets and on the online store. “Because I want to take my business to the next level,” she said, “and not only sell at local Farmers Markets, I need a commercial kitchen to use. I look forward to seeing the first real incubator kitchen in Montgomery County.”
Stone Stoup Catering is a catering company that serves D.C, Maryland, and Virginia out of Gaithersburg, Maryland. They offer a large variety of many types of food as well as a unique cookie selection. Chef Zello, the owner, stated that “[Shared kitchen space] certainly would have been helpful when we first started!”
The Innovation Program frequently hears from businesses like these that shared kitchen space is or would have been a great help in jump-starting these businesses. What do you think? Would shared, licensed, commercial kitchen space be helpful for your start-up? We’d like to hear from you.
On August 1st, 2013, this article was published by Innovation Fellow Briana Liu regarding the food system in Montgomery County. She discussed the elements she would like to see in MoCo, which are a community farm, shared kitchen space, and community involvement. Now, over two months later, we can look in retrospect over how we have addressed the issues and applied the ideas to improve this system, starting with our innovation projects.
The shared kitchen space, or kitchen incubator project initiative, is well underway and incorporates greatly the “kitchen” aspect of Briana’s plan. Having these open kitchens will allow more people to be involved in the community, jump-start businesses, and help food trucks get up and running. The specs of this project are currently being worked out and will be implemented soon. In creating the kitchen incubators, we will consider her “surplus food” initiative in order to decrease food waste and help the hungry. Both initiatives would be beneficial to both businesses and citizens.
Innovation Fellow Karen Vanegas is continuing Briana’s work and researching implementing a food hub and community farm for Montgomery County. This program allows experienced farmers to team up with new farmers and teach them the tips and tricks of the industry. This way, new farmers can gain experience and produce and sell more goods at a greater rate.
Montgomery County is well on its way to a more sustainable food system. The incorporation of kitchen incubators into this system will help create more demand for these locally sourced products. As an update from a few months ago, these projects are in their initial stages. Details are being worked out, band we will provide more updates as the become available.
On regular basis I’m asked about the availability of shared kitchen space in Montgomery County. Sometimes it’s a non-profit working on food security and access issues. Sometimes it’s an individual trying to make a hard to find ethnic food product. Sometimes it’s a food truck owner. My answer is typically the same: depending on your needs it’s very hard to find. So for the past several months some of the Innovation Fellows have been researching this issue and looking at various models from around the county. Last week an interesting study came out that provides a clear overview of kitchen incubators around the country. Maryland seems a bit underrepresented. The Innovation Program would be interested in hearing your thoughts. The study is available by clicking here.