Aspiring foodie entrepreneur Amanda Wright needed a place to make her food, but she didn’t want the costly overhead of setting up a cooking facility. Her business is called the Sweet & Simple Candy Co. and she specializes in making salted caramel and old-fashioned candies. She sells them on Etsy, at craft shows and through her website. When she shared her dilemma with other foodies in the business, she found others who were facing the same problem.
Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and so it was that The Kitchen Collective was born, a non-profit affordable commercial kitchen that people can rent out to make their food goodies. Wright is one of five founding members of The Kitchen Collective and has also taken on the role of secretary. The other founding members include: Reuben Vanderkwaak (Donut Monster), Matthew Willard (Willards Ice Cream), Robert House (Hero Coffee), and Shana Narciso and Lea Bunting (Real Food Kitchens).
The storefront, located on King Street East, is a 1,900 square foot space that was once a convenience store. It had been empty for four years; they had it gutted, did a massive renovation and filled it with the best in culinary appliances, which include a walk-in cooler and freezer, a 10-burner range, three different kinds of ovens, a flat top grill, a large bread oven, and more. Over the last few years they’ve had 40 to 50 different
businesses rent the space. About 20 of those use it on a regular basis. “It just sort of came about because we needed a commercial kitchen to prepare our products so we banded together, and then we kept running into other people who needed a commercial kitchen,” says Wright.
The Kitchen Collective is the only space of its kind in Hamilton that provides an outlet for chefs, bakers, and food artisans to launch their businesses. Wright says many of the regulars have discovered that the benefits of the kitchen are more than just financial. It’s also an aspiring entrepreneur’s dream space where people feed off each other and share ideas. She refers to the space as a ‘culinary incubator’. “It’s basically a co-working space, and you learn a lot from each other because there are usually four or five people working there at a time, so you can collaborate on different things,” says Wright.
Other cooking and catering businesses that use the Collective include The Winged Bean, ChaCha’s Pierogi, Vintage Coffee Roasters, Dolled Up Desserts, and Eric’s Handcrafted Butter Tarts (which are amazing). Many of them, like Wright, have found a wide range of ways to sell their products, including online and at craft shows, festivals and farmers’ markets. They also cater events, like weddings and corporate affairs. “A lot of people don’t have the overhead to start a business so being able to rent the space from us helps a lot, plus they can try it out,” she says.
Because the Collective is a co-operative, it’s owned and operated by its members, which is similar to other Hamilton co-operatives like The Mustard Seed Co-op (grocery store), THAAT Co-op (bicycle-based delivery services), and Community Car Share Co-op. Wright sees The Kitchen Collective as a boost for the city because, by making it possible for foodie entrepreneurs to launch their businesses, they’re also providing the city with a wide range of culinary outlets. The Collective also rents out the space to community groups, for example, if they’re doing a BBQ and they’re looking into setting up cooking workshops. “There are a lot of entrepreneurs in Hamilton. It’s a very supportive city for entrepreneurs and small businesses and the community recognizes we’re putting the value back into the city.” It would seem that collective culinary minds do indeed think alike.
Written by Denise Davy