What do you get when you mix local food, a historic building and 7,000 pounds of brand-spanking-new equipment? Answer: the Kitchen Sync.
Surveying freshly delivered ranges, ovens and other implements, owner Sheila Bennett explains that “first and foremost, Kitchen Sync is a professional licensed kitchen rental.”
But its aim is to provide a creative development space for food developers looking to “batch up” and move towards full commercialization.
“So it’s a space for food entrepreneurs to be able to come and develop their business, whether it’s a private chef or somebody doing a made-in-Manitoba food product, such as a sauce or a jam or something like the fabulous mustards being made in the province,” she said.
The process began more than a year ago, taking a significant investment of time and money, but it’s expecting to open its doors this month.
Bennett, who worked in the restaurant industry for years before taking on this new challenge, said she wanted to help fill what she sees as a gap in resources.
“There’s a real shortage of commercial kitchens here,” she said. “I think we’re seeing a trend towards this in other places in North America, and we’ll see where this leads.”
Few businesses offer a place for food developers to work out of, many rely on community commercial kitchens. The Portage Food Development Centre is also available to would-be food pro-cessors, but Bennett points out that it is a long drive for most people to get there, and that while the services offered are great, they can be too expensive for those just starting out with an idea.
“You could probably cook here for a month for the same price as being there for a day, so I’m incubating those businesses that are seriously considering commercialization,” she said. “But I’m just one of the stepping stones in that whole picture.”
Variable rental rate
Kitchen Sync will be available for rent at rates between $18 and $27 an hour, depending on the time and day people are interested in using the space.
“Obviously if you want to come in at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday, the rate will be lower,” she said.
Now the new business venture is just waiting on the last of its permits.
In addition to zoning permits and food-services permit required by the City of Winnipeg, those interested in opening a commercial kitchen must also follow guidelines set out by Manitoba Health, Healthy Living and Seniors.
“As a rule, the applicant must submit a floor plan for MHHLS review to ensure that all requirements are met before construction can begin,” said a spokeswoman for the department. “The permit application form and the plan are normally submitted at the same time. Once the establishment is built, MHHLS inspects the premises and if everything is in line with regulations and requirements, an operating permit is issued.”
Bennett said her business classification is a bit unusual.
“I’m unique — I got that a lot when I was applying for zoning and permits, and that sort of thing, but they are treating me like a restaurant, it’s the same sort of regulation, because it’s still a food-service facility,” she said.
The 4,000-square-foot space at the edge of Winnipeg’s Exchange District will also be able to host events, such as cooking lessons and demonstrations.
“I do have some space in this building where I could also be hosting licensed events, where it’s a product launch or a wine tasting, or cooking classes… the other aspects of the business is that I do have a full demonstration kitchen,” said the entrepreneur.
“Down the road I would like to have a very happy group of six or eight food professionals who come here every day to work and hone their craft, develop their business,” said Bennett, adding that she’s already been connecting with people through Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development events who are interested in using the space to develop new products.
“I’ve been really amazed at the abundance of local food in other parts of the world, and always wondered why we couldn’t do more here, and in the last few years there’s really been a resurgence in that, and I wanted to get involved,” she said.