Future kitchen incubator to help food business owners, developers say

This will be the future site of a kitchen incubator in Rochester (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - Aspiring food business owners will have a place to cook up their ideas in a Rochester downtown kitchen incubator in about a year.

Called The Commissary, the incubator will be located in the basement of the old Chase Tower on Clinton Avenue and Main Street.

Rochester leaders believe the incubator will be a recipe for success to kick start new businesses and create jobs.

"If you have an idea, if you're good in the kitchen, we're going to give you the tools you need to create a business," said Laura Fox O'Sullivan, Vice President of Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC).

O'Sullivan says it can cost up to $100,000 to have a fully-equipped commercial kitchen.

The project will cost about $1,000,000, and will feature eight work stations and a large performance kitchen.

State funds are covering about 20 percent of the cost, and the Rochester Central School District is donating kitchen equipment from schools that are part of the modernization project, according to RDDC.

Laws in New York require a business owner to have a commercial kitchen and proper licensing in order to sell food to the public.

"There is a huge number of people who work in the food industry underground. This is an opportunity for people who may have a baking business out of their home or a catering business out of their home to legitimize their business, and scale up and really market it," said O'Sullivan.

Ian Szalinski started his food business Evoke Healthy Foods five years ago and says a kitchen incubator would've helped tremendously.

"I started selling my products at the Rochester Public Market. I rented a small space near here, got the necessary licensing, started doing the packaging myself and it would've been a great opportunity to share the resources," said Szalinski who initially invested $10,000 into his business centered around organic muesli.

It paid off for Szalinski, whose products are sold in stores across the country, including Wegmans.

"Something like the kitchen incubator would be a great opportunity for people to share resources to share space and also share ideas," said Szalinski, who is on the advisory board for the Commissary.

RDDC is excited to launch the kitchen incubator and bring more people to downtown Rochester for cooking classes, food demonstrations and pop-up food events.

"We're really focused on increasing street vitality on Main Street, so if we can encourage that caterer to see that they have a market for their concept, we'd love for them to fill a vacant space on Main Street," said O'Sullivan.

For those interested, workshops are going to be held leading up the incubator launch at the end of 2017 or early 2018.

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