|Pantry donated by|
There is nothing quite as inspiring as people coming together to work hard for a good cause. The Kitchen@812 in Pinole is just such an inspiration. In a climate where America’s blue collar workers have been abandoned by the collective psyche of this country in favor of worshiping at the altar of corporate greed and a fast buck, it’s nice to find people who are focused on something other than themselves.
A project of the Business Development Council (BDC) the Kitchen@812 is “a nonprofit food business incubator, enabl[ing] local entrepreneurs to turn their passions into profit by helping them launch and develop their food ventures. This shared-used commercial kitchen also serves as a place where small business owners can learn more about the technical aspects of food production and receive individualized business assistance.”
|Chef Ian Marks (left) and|
Ismael Macias (right)
& Leopoldo Lopez
of Pica Pica
The event I attended in May was the Kitchen@812’s first “Culinary Clash.” A dramatic “Iron Chef meets Top Chef” style battle that was hosted by BDC and several like-minded corporate sponses, it was a fundraiser for the organization’s scholarships. These scholarships provide kitchen-time in their fully-equipped industrial facility to qualified applicants at no cost, as a way to get them up and running in their chosen field of culinary dreams. Simultaneously, business experts and those currently engaged in the profession offer counseling and guidance to give the fledgling Chefs a solid base on which to begin his or her food-based enterprise. Any funds not needed for such scholarships will go towards more equipment and supplies. As a note of encouragement to any of my food-related readers who might have sources for donations of first rate (unused or “as new”) kitchen equipment, please contact them at the number(s) below. Pay it forward people.
|Ian Marks of Beast & Hare's Entry|
(the onion puree was to die for)
|Steak carpaccio over a bed|
of zucchini "pasta", topped with jelly
bean "gelee" from Lark Creek's Macias
That spirit was exemplified by the four chefs who volunteered to compete in the event. Patrick Robertson of Pappas Restaurant in Benicia, Ismael Macias of Lark Creek Steak in San Francisco, Adriana Lopez-Vermut (ably assisted by her father, Leopoldo Lopez) of Pica Pica Maize Kitchen in San Francisco and Ian Marks of Beast and The Hare in San Francisco. In my book, every one of them a winner.
|Fresh Strawberries over a jelly bean glaze|
and oven fried kale from Pica Pica's
The even was attended by approximately 150 paid guests, all pillars of the community and all delighted with their “small plates” of the evenings entrees at the conclusion of the awards ceremony. The event managed to raise $25,000 net profit, which will translate into approximately twenty scholarships for worthy applicant-entrepreneurs. In addition to myself, the event was judged by Genoveva Calloway, Councilmember, City of San Pablo, and John Strohmeier, Contra Costa MarketPlace Magazine.
|The winning dish, a perfectly prepared|
Hangar steak with a corn salsa flavored
with green-apple jelly beans!
Like so many parts of the country these days, high levels of unemployment and low household incomes can serve to create a feeling that there is no way out from under. That nothing can be done to changes one’s circumstances and provide a better life for their children. Here at the Kitchen@812, with the help and visionary leadership of the BDC, they have created an entrepreneurial culture to nurture the culinary dreams of those seeking a better life through hard work. And don’t be fooled by the idea that life in the food industry is an easy one. One doesn’t just need talent with a spatula or a handful of great family recipes. This is an industry that requires dedication, drive, and oftentimes an ability to go without sleep or much pay. The hours are long, and the profit-margins slim. It is perhaps the riskiest, and at the same time most-fulfilling of industries. When done correctly, with a proper understanding of the intricacies of the business, it can at the same time be one of the most rewarding enterprises a person can undertake. And that is exactly what the Kitchen@812 and the BDC want to provide, “access to industry information, business education and support, and an affordable commercial kitchen.” All the tools necessary to make those culinary dreams a practical reality for deserving entrepreneurs.
King of the Kitchen!
Chef Patrick Robertson
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Kitchen@812, the Business Development Center’s newest project, is designed to help individuals attain economic self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship in the food industry.
Working in communities with high levels of unemployment and low household incomes, an entrepreneurial culture of residents seeking economic opportunities for their families has emerged. Oftentimes, many families depend on “informal” ventures or part-time self-employment as a means to supplement their household income. For many, these opportunities are found in the food industry. In order to operate a successful food business and increase their self-sufficiency, aspiring food entrepreneurs need access to industry information, business education and support, and an affordable commercial kitchen – three key ingredients recommended by successful food business incubation programs throughout the country.
Cakes by Claudia
Business Incubator: Kitchen@812 is a new shared-use commercial kitchen facility that provides aspiring food entrepreneurs access to cooking equipment, storage space, and culinary training.
Specialty Food Training: The training component covers essential business topics and critical industry information to help participants assess their readiness and commitment to a new food venture.
Individualized Assistance: Through one-on-one services, the BDC helps entrepreneurs launch a formal venture and also facilitates access to new markets and business opportunities.
Scholarship Program: Because start-up capital is a key issue for entrepreneurs, scholarships are provided to a select group of training program graduates that are ready and prepared to launch their businesses. These entrepreneurs will have access to an average of 3 months of kitchen use as they work to develop their products and customer base.
The BDC targets its services to primarily low-income adults seeking to start or expand their small businesses in Contra Costa County. In 2011 alone, 87% of the BDC’s clients were minorities, 73% were low-income, and 43% were women.
- Individuals interested in scholarship opportunities should contact Kitchen@812 at 510-327-9466