Sunday, December 19, 2010

Epicurial Entrepreneurial Space

My friend and IDEO colleague Peter Bromka passed along the article "A Kitchen-for-Rent Is a Lifeline for the Laid-Off" from the New York Times on The Entrepreneur’s Space in Queens, a 24/7 commercial kitchen available to local epicureans.

The regulations and tremendous expense of having your own commercial kitchen are an obviously enormous challenge to overcome if you want make money from your passion to cook food for others.

As Fernanda Santos points out in the article:
"The kitchen, rare in its approach, solves many problems. It offers cooks space they do not have at home, is fully equipped and complies with the city’s health code."

And it's the power of a collective sharing of resources:
"The place has also fostered an informal network, where cooks combine purchasing orders for things like butter and olive oil to save money, or rely on one another as taste testers."

It reminds me of La Cocina in SF's Mission district who's mission, "is to cul­ti­vate low-income food entre­pre­neurs as they for­mal­ize and grow their busi­nesses by pro­vid­ing afford­able com­mer­cial kitchen space, industry-specific tech­ni­cal assis­tance and access to mar­ket opportunities."

I'm also reminded of the long successful Mission Street Food, where a group of ambitious, creative young chefs who lacked their own legal commercial kitchen rented out a Chinese restaurant on Mission Street for one night a week. The proceeds from the evening were donated to local charities. There were many nights where the line at MSF was half a block long. The concept was so successful that it has yielded the permanent establishment in their foster home, the Lung Shan Restaurant, called Mission Chinese Food. A permanent cohabitation of two restaurants in one where the Lung Shan Restaurants were trained by the Mission Street Food's Danny Bowien in new techniques using new, fresh ingredients.

If your only limitation in starting your own restaurant is actually getting the restaurant itself, a little creative real estate sharing might just make access to a quality space the easy part. Having a network of like-minded people to share resources and knowledge makes it all the more powerful.