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Kitchen incubator helps chefs cook up success

April 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
With the popularity of cooking shows and chefs seen as rising stars, some think starting their own café or catering company might just be the ticket. Here's a so-called "kitchen incubator" that is helping many cook up success. "It was a wonderful place for us to come and be legal. We didn't have to sneak around in our home and peddle food out of there," said Bonnie Henderson, Bonnie B's Smokin' BBQ Heaven.

Henderson started her business at Mama's Small Business Kitchen Incubator in Pasadena. It is a licensed state-of-the-art facility that helps those interested in food service get on their feet.

"People can actually go in, get some hands-on practical experience and can actually do some cooking," said facility manager Larry Bressler. "They learn to work in the dining room."

Chef instructor and facility manager Larry Bressler says the $3 million non-profit center opened less than a year ago through a generous donation from the Nicholas Foundation and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

The idea is to help those with a dream to get the education they need and then get going. TheNational Restaurant Association statistics show well over 90 percent of new businesses fail in the first three years. They want to change that.

"How do you get a job? You have to have experience. How do you get experience? You have to get a job," said Bressler.

"They never saw the kitchen. They don't know how everything works so you have to show them," said chief instructor Farid Zadi.

Starting a restaurant means plunking down a lot of cash for a lease, going through inspections, training staff and more. The kitchen incubator allows some to test their dreams in small batches.

"It's so flexible. So when we're not in production, we're not paying overhead. So it helps, as a small business, it really helps us keep our costs down," said Alyson Cook, Green Apple Gourmet.

Cook's Green Apple Gourmet caters up to 400 meals daily to Pasadena schools.

A food-handling class and $25 an hour allows them to use the facility. About 85 companies have cooked up success, from food trucks to catering companies.

"We're proud members of the Pasadena family now and we're grateful to be there," said Henderson.


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