Around Carolina: The Cookery
Updated: 07/26/2012 11:18 AM
By: Richard Green
DURHAM -- Many people have never heard the term culinary incubator.
About 60 food-related businesses in and around Durham are intimately involved with the concept. They have used the facilities at the Cookery to start producing food products or to enhance their efforts.
In North Carolina, there are requirements for those wanting to feed the public.
"You do need to be inspected by either the Health Department or, in my case, the Department of Agriculture," said Mark Overbay, of Big Spoon Roasters.
Most home kitchens don’t meet the requirements and it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish a commercial kitchen. That can be an insurmountable hurdle for those with an idea and not much capital.
"Up until the Cookery, if you wanted to open a food business in Durham, you basically had to be wealthy," said Nick Hawthorne-Johnson, of the Cookery.
The Cookery rents space in its commercial kitchen and that has helped many businesses get started.
"Our goal is to both lower the threshold for gaining access to the marketplace and also lower the risk threshold,” Hawthorne-Johnson said.
Overbay is at the Cookery about every day making his assorted nut butters.
"When I discovered the Cookery, it was a perfect fit for me," he said.
The Cookery provides space and also expertise in other aspects of operating a food business.
"You don't have to reinvent the wheel. As a food entrepreneur, you just have to make it more delicious and they help you do that," said Paul Inserra, of the American Meltdown food truck.
The idea here is that the chefs, cooks and bakers will not stay forever.
"We get people a foothold and they use us as a stepping stone to move on at some point to their own place,” Hawthorne-Johnson said.
There might not be enough activity for a place such as this to be successful everywhere, but with Durham’s dynamic food culture, it works.
"Durham really embraces the locally-produced aspect of what our members offer,” said Rochelle Johnson, of the Cookery.
In September, there will be even more to the Cookery. The front room will open meaning 2,500 square feet to accommodate 125 diners.
"The idea is to create a very large, very flexible space to host events from restaurants to food shows,” Hawthorne-Johnson said.
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