As you’ve probably seen on popular cooking shows such as Kitchen Nightmares or Top Chef, running a restaurant kitchen is a tough job.
But for some food entrepreneurs, the real difficulty isn’t with rude wait staff or a missing ingredient. Rather, it’s simply finding the space to operate. That’s why a local food network group, FoodLab Detroit, is stepping in to act as that much-needed intermediary and acting as a matchmaker for businesses and kitchen space with its Detroit Kitchen Connect (DKC), which opened its doors last August.
Currently, DKC has working relationships with 10 different businesses and is operating two kitchens in the Motor City. The first — called the Matrix Human Services — is located at the east side community center, while the second operates out of the St. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church in southwest Detroit. Both kitchens have between 1,200 and 1,600 square feet of cold and dry storage space as well as high-quality equipment including triple-stack conventional ovens, multiple burner stoves, preparation tables and a wide assortment of pots, pans and utensils.
So who uses these decked-out kitchens? Good Cakes and Bakes uses the space for prep work and baking, then moves their goods to their storefront to sell them. Working side-by-side with the bakers is the Michigan Pepper Company, producing its hot pepper sauce in the space.
Due to the wealth discrepancy of the area, the DKC charges different rates for their clients. For those businesses with financial difficulties, the fee is only $15 per hour. FoodLab members and vendors that sell their products at the local community markets, the charge is $18 per hour, where as businesses outside of Detroit pay the most at $30 an hour. The money saved has allowed the businesses to hire additional workers or invest in equipment, like delivery vans.
These businesses aren’t just paying for kitchen use, though. The DKC also provides a long list of additional services, including access to training workshops, peer mentoring, field trips teaching recycling and composting practices and a networking service through Keep Detroit Growing.
In less than a year, Devita Davison, the director of DKC, has seen how the group is benefiting the community: “We’re trying to create what we call an inclusive, equitable, and just local sustainable food economy,” she told Seedstock. “Detroit Kitchen Connect is really on the forefront of . . . using food as conduit to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Detroit neighborhoods.”