“When people talk about food, it just creates a warm feeling,” says co-owner Alexandra Pelts. “It’s community building; it’s an integral part of humanity. . .as the old saying goes, ‘to eat is human, to eat well is divine.”
Hopefully, it is that positive drive people will feel upon the opening of Kitchen24, a new culinary space and “food incubator” currently set to open at the end of May, located in Suite 200 at 100 Marmora Street. For those unaware, such locations exist more commonly in the United States and are used to give culinary professionals the space they may not otherwise have to work on various projects for their businesses — a very realistic problem, in the increasingly expensive Toronto market. Intrigued food enthusiasts can also experiment for their own enjoyment if the close quarters of the kitchen in their cramped apartment leaves much to be desired.
There are already businesses in Toronto offering kitchen spaces for rent, but co-owners Steve Kidron and Alexandra Pelts noticed the degree to which such an idea can be ambitiously expanded. Kitchen24 will be a 28,000 square foot, commercial-grade location that is going to take into account the different cultural, spacial, and even business needs for those willing to pay the monthly price. The initial idea was born when Pelts and Kidron, business partners since 2010, began renting out their previous considerably smaller kitchen facility for a catering company. The partners of that company eventually split, but that got their internal wheels turning. Pelts wrote an ad for their space, which she placed on Kijiji. The response was positively shocking: It received over 300 inquiries from people within the food service industry, ranging from those with small businesses to others working in offices, intrigued to try out a new lucrative interest on the side. Pelts and Kidron discovered the gap in the market and, upon doing more research, they soon found that there were other companies that were advertising kitchen spaces for rent, all of which were quite similar — to a fault.
“There is definitely a need for a space like [Kitchen24] in the city of Toronto. There are a number of companies, maybe a dozen give or take, that have advertised that they have commercial kitchens for rent, but most of them I would say are renting their kitchens similarly to the way we did a few years ago. There’s not a single food incubator that caters directly to the food service industry.”
The location will be comprised of sixty cooking stations, and among them will be thirteen convection ovens, a pizza oven, two walk-in fridges — one main fridge, and a smaller fridge for kosher requirements — and a vast array of appliances. Not only is the idea exciting for businesses owners struggling with Toronto rental costs, but the drive to take into account the needs of the small business owners first — who have a dream and perhaps, just need a little help to get off the ground — is the primary factor that Kidron and Pelts both hope will result is a thriving, passionate, and fun culinary community.
Steve Kidron wears his heart on his sleeves when it comes to his desire to give passionate individuals who are eager to learn more as much of a helping hand as he can. He is an immigrant from Israel, who once owned a food truck before the stress of working around regulations proved to be too much of a hassle, as well as a previous business — Fresh for Less — that delivered meals to the needy. As Kidron notes, one of the main issues that people with a small food business struggle with is moving their venture from their apartment or basement to an area that can be certified by the Health Department. Other rental kitchens end up having long wait times and those individuals starting out have very difficult work schedules, with some working two to three jobs to make ends meet. “The economy in Ontario is becoming so expensive. Even if they have money, it can be scary to invest — it’s a risk they don’t often need.” With both his personal experience and empathy for those in the business, he aims to operate Kitchen24 with enough flexibility to cater to clients of various economic capacities.
While the need for space and flexible scheduling for clients is on the forefront of their minds, Kidron and Pelts hope that their plans for classes and mentoring programs that give a good foundational knowledge in the industry will go the extra mile.
“What we found out were there were a lot people with start-ups, with great ideas,” says Alexandra Pelts. “Either they are people who just graduated from cooking school or they have a recipe from their grandmother that they would like to develop and want to take it to another level. All the people come in with an idea and a passion to cook, but only a few have an understanding or an education in how to run the business — how to do a business plan, how to create a brand, how to market themselves, create packaging… many businesses fail because they can only bring it to a certain level and afterwards they need help in mentoring and obtaining the right contacts.”
Such an emphasis on giving the clients the know-how to spread their wings and thrive on their own is surely an exciting aspect of Kitchen24 for potential clients, but there are of course many plans that will prove to be more fun possibilities for community members as well. Hopes for future events range from cooking competitions, teaching classes on how to preserve food for the needy, and other industry pop-up events. One would also be correct in feeling that such a space would also be a perfect location for a cookbook launch party, as echoed by Ms. Pelts. There is much enthusiasm from the owners about what Kitchen24 can bring to the surrounding community, as well as the industry at-large. It would be remiss for those in-the-know throughout Toronto not to be paying attention to its development.