Sunday, October 31, 2010

'Kitchen incubators' make the New York Times food issue

Before it gets too far along, try to find a hard copy of the Food Issue of the NY Times, 10/10/10. The title of the magazine section was 'Eating Together. How the food revolution – from farm to table – is really a story about seeding and savoring communities.'

Most people assume they know enough about ‘incubator kitchens’. They are typically seen as facilities that low-income people can use to create food businesses without having to invest funds they don’t have.

But the story of shared use kitchens is certainly not stopping there.

I’ve just watched our Innovation Kitchen seed and grow valuable, loving and profitable communities before my eyes. I watched this beautiful facility create a ‘bloom’ of great jobs for people who have significant employment needs that deserve our support.

Within this NY Times food issue was an article by Rob Walker titled, “Shared Tastes. The ‘kitchen incubator’ and how it really works.” The piece is about the most common ways people are deploying these incubator kitchen facilities to give low-income entrepreneurs access to commercial kitchens and technical support so they can grow new businesses. This is truly great, world-changing work. It’s wonderful to have a bright light shined on this work.

But there are other models emerging, like our Innovation Kitchen. I think our ‘artisan food career’ experiment at the Innovation Kitchen is another new way to think about the subject of utilizing shared use kitchens for creating jobs and economic development.

What if we invite food entrepreneurs of ALL income ranges to participate in food entrepreneurship? Why limit it to entrepreneurship programs for low-income people? The Innovation Kitchen is working on a model that creates a platform for all food entrepreneurs to live anywhere they want and have their recipes prepared by an excellent, fully certified food processing staff in a world class, state-inspected commercial kitchen. This is our ‘artisan food career’ program for aspiring food entrepreneurs nationwide.

At the same time, our Innovation Kitchen model also creates important and much-needed jobs that support adults with disabilities. It is indeed ‘seeding and savoring communities’ as the NY Times says, and represents a valuable addition to this discussion of how to deploy shared use kitchens.

At the Innovation Kitchen, my friends with disabilities are helping package and label and ship a wide variety of foods processed for local farms, food lovers and food entrepreneurs nationwide.

And it’s not just jobs for my friends with disabilities.

In addition, our Innovation Kitchen is focused on helping existing food businesses in our region grow their own enterprises to the next level. This model nurtures our existing economy, gives our existing food entrepreneurs the opportunity to create jobs in their businesses while making their own businesses more stable and profitable.

We just added up the local produce that was processed through the Innovation Kitchen in the last 3 months and it was over 25,000 pounds. In 3 months! This was accomplished while Annette and her great staff were just starting up the facility, plus catching up with their own loss of 3 months of production during their move to the new facility. The Innovation Kitchen processed over 25,000 pounds of LOCAL produce from LOCAL farms, in 3 months to rave reviews. Plus the work supported trucking jobs, plus jobs in labeling and packaging and marketing.

This experiment is making good jobs across a wide spectrum of the food chain (pun intended).

People from anywhere the country can start their own enterprises utilizing the Innovation Kitchen as their safe, legal, commercial food preparation ‘back office’. People can create new businesses from wherever they live while creating jobs for adults with disabilities in Wisconsin. This is the basis for our 'artisan food career' program.

Ours is a different plank in the ‘incubator kitchen’ platform. My friends at the Innovation Kitchen look forward to sharing the idea and their facility in service of this experiment.

I hope to be as transparent as I can in reporting those results here.

Let’s dig in!

The Innovation Kitchen

Our 'artisan food career' program

New York Times. Shared Tastes. The 'kitchen incubator' and how it really works. By Rob Walker. (great date!) 10/10/10


Anonymous said...

One of our girls in town has been trying to find an incubator like the ones you speak of. She was turned down at the most popular one of all in S.F., CA because of some kind of "non-compete" policy -- even after she was accepted by them.

Do you know how she can get involved in one close to home (San Francisco Bay Area)?


J. Gabmar

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