Malcolm Jolley visits a giant food business incubator in North York.
Kitchen 24 is really big. I mean like giant, huge, really big. I’m not sure how many work areas are already there waiting to be used: dozens? Or how many will be ready as the commercial kitchen space and food business incubator gets ready to renovate an additional 25,000 square feet on top of the 28,000 square feet ready to go of the old clothing factory they’ve retrofitted just north of Wilson between Jane and Keele, but the scale of the project is impressive, and may need to be seen to be believed.
Steve Kidron and his partner Alexandra Pelts aren’t worried about filling up their space though. As Steve explained over lunch in the ‘lounge area’ of the complex, next to the demo kitchen and classroom space, in front of just one of the half dozen huge commercial kitchen areas, as a food service operator who would let out his inspected kitchen to friends on off hours, the demand in the GTA for a fully equipped work space for food businesses who are just starting out is high. Their location, more or less at the junction of Highways 400 and 401, means they can attract new food professionals from across the region, and want as diverse a clientele as the city can offer.
Kidron and Pelts have just opened and hosted a small group of food journalists recently for a tour of the complex and to meet some of the first users of the space. On hand were a diverse group of start-up, which included Chef Zubair Ahmad Dar and his wife Sabina Ansari who serve Kashmiri food under the name Kishmini, Kiki Athanassoulias of Mindfully Edible, and Zhara Mian of Sunlight Catering. The services on offer extend beyond the kitchen space, fridges and freezers we walked around in, there’s also space to photograph food for marketing materials, and the event space area we’re taking up to organize private dinners and events. Kidron oversaw the conversion of the factory to food space, and recycled as much of the old fixtures as possible. For instance much of the shelving is made with old pipes, their fire sprinklers still attached.
Taylor Wild, a kitchen professional with experience in product development and marketing, is serving as Assistant Director and stresses the concept of a “creative community’ being built at Kitchen 24, where new businesses befit not just from space and equipment, but from networking and support from the Kitchen 24 team and their fellow renters.
The theme of community at Kitchen 24 is big with Kidron and Pelts. As he showed me Kitchen 24’s just completed set of Kosher kitchens (the only Kosher incubator space available in Toronto, he says), Kidron explains that the Toronto food business has been very good to him and this is his chance to give back. “Honestly,” he says as we survey another big, spotlessly clean room, “this is the first project I’ve done where I am not nervous. I don’t know why, but I know it’s going to be amazing.”
Interested food entrepreneurs can arrange for tours at Kitchen 24’s website.