Sometimes you have to wonder why anyone would try to get into the food business at all. Overheads are high, regulations are strict and confusing, and the potential for profit is small. Yet more people than ever are interested in launching their own food enterprises, and our hunger for unique edible products and experiences continues to grow. In response to all of this, communal, shared professional kitchens have begun to pop up, spaces that mimic creative communal office spaces but for the culinary-minded.
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This week, one such space opens in downtown L.A. Crafted Kitchen is an event space and shared-use kitchen, where chefs and food makers can rent space for production, pop-up dinners, cooking classes or whatever the need is. Housed in a 95-year-old warehouse in the Arts District, Crafted Kitchen has a number of options for different types of food businesses. Space is available to rent by the hour (beginning at $28 per hour), and there are also four private kitchens that will be rented out with annual leases. A large test kitchen with an adjacent patio is available for daily rental for events, as well as photo and film shoots.
This isn't the first business of its kind in L.A., but owner Cindi Thompson hopes it will be a little different than the other kitchen-for-rent spaces around town. Thompson started in the finance world before deciding to go to cooking school and becoming a private chef, and she says she is trying to open a business that looks like what she needed when she was trying to make a living as a food entrepreneur. Those needs include community, mentorship and resources. "A food business is not just about cooking," Thompson says. "You need to know about sales, marketing, legal, accounting. I really tried to build the facility I would have needed to make a food business work."
To that end, Thompson has events set up such as a free monthly "ask the attorney" session, in which folks who use Crafted Kitchen can get legal business advice. She also hopes to be able to connect small food producers with the professional help they need. "Consultants, help with a business plan, food costs, web developers, folks who can help with logo or design," Thompson says. "My Rolodex is totally open."
And apart from the storage, equipment and access to sourcing available, Thompson hopes to foster a community around the kitchen, where people can help one another. She calls Crafted Kitchen a "culinary incubator." The kitchen stations available to rent by the hour are set up in a large, open shared-use space, designed to foster collaboration and community. "This is about being a small-food advocate," Thompson says. "I'm hoping to give those individuals a platform, a megaphone. I want to help small businesses get their shit together."