Since the Greenpoint Food Market shut down in mid-June, it’s become clear that finding a commercial kitchen that provides a legal, and affordable place to make food for sale is a major hurdle for would-be food businesses. We found a couple of intrepid entrepreneurs who are taking kitchen matters into their own flour-covered hands. My Friend’s Mustard maker Anna Wolf used some creative thinking to find herself a spot at the Palace, a Greenpoint bar, and SCRATCHbread founder Matthew Tilden has finally found a kitchen to call his own.
Wolf started making mustard when she whipped up a recipe she found online to go with some bratwurst she was grilling and it didn’t turn out very well.”It was acidic and bitter–it was just gross,” she says. She got obsessed with perfecting the art of beer-based, whole grain mustard, experimenting in her home kitchen and foisting her concoctions on friends. And when she quit her job as an assets manager for a big marketing firm (think corporate librarian–Wolf has an MLS from Pratt) her passion became a business.
She started negotiating kitchen space with a catering company, but they backed out of the idea, and that’s when she decided to approach places with underutilized, but Health Department-approved kitchens (Wolf is inspected by Ag & Markets, but the codes are largely the same). Like The Palace just across from McGolrick Park in Greenpoint. “I walked in and asked for the owner [Geraldine Curtin]. It took a couple of days to track her down, but she instantly said, ‘I don’t see why not,’ when I explained what I wanted to do,” Wolf says. She’s paying a lot less than she would at a rent-by-the-hour kitchen, and, it suits her mustardy needs. Storage space, which is at a premium in pretty much every kitchen in Brooklyn, is as important as kitchen space, as her blends need to sit in the walk-in (an original wooden number in the basement) for weeks at a time to develop flavor.
Maybe it’s the librarian part of her brain, but from the get-go Wolf knew she wanted to build her business by the letter of the law. “I want to get it right–if this is going to be successful I don’t want to have to stop production to get legit.” She, her boyfriend, and her main investor Jon Miller (one of the owners of Barcade and Gutter), spent three months and about $5,000 at the Palace tearing out a drop ceiling, installing a grease trap, painting, reorganizing and cleaning. “I feel really attached to this kitchen,” she says of the tiny space. “It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears.” They’ve paid off–her inspection didn’t cite a single violation.
Wolf will deliver her first batch of mustard to stores around Brooklyn, including Radish and Urban Rustic, within the next two weeks. She has two flavors, a jalapeno IPA made with Sixpoint Bengali Tiger IPA, and a spicy brown made with Sixpoint Brownstone Ale. The whole grain elements gives the mustard a distinctive texture. “Some people have said it’s like caviar with the seeds popping in your mouth as you it eat it,” she says. Break out the bratwurst.
SCRATCHbread founder Mathew Tilden started out in a kitchen sharing situation similar to Anna’s–as we reported in our South Slope daytrip he was baking bread late night and early mornings at Toby’s Public House. The popularity of his focaccia, scones and V-Bars (the most delicious vegan baked good you’ll ever eat) quickly outpaced the space available to him there, so he set up shop on Columbia Street in Red Hook, only to find out that the lease he had signed was illegal and had to resume his kitchen search with just two weeks notice.
He just moved into a space on Bedford Avenue that comes with a wood-burning oven and roll-up to-go window, courtesy of the previous occupants, a focaccia joint that looked more like it would be more at home in Midtown than in Bed-Stuy. “I was homeless on a Sunday, and on a Thursday afternoon I looked at this place,” he explains. Tilden, who like many creative business owners says that he’s always had great ideas and never had the capital to see them fully realized, scrambled to get the money together to secure the space, drawing from his own cash flow and a family friend. Once it all came together he signed the lease and set to work. “I ripped this place apart as fast as I could,” he says. He and he dad built wooden work tables, and he has a “Right to Deliciousness” campaign up on Kickstarter to help raise the money to finish the space. Installing a proper venting for the wood-burning oven (pictured above), in which he plans to make naan, flatbreads and a killer sourdough, is at the top of the list.
Tilden also wants to turn his new space into a community resource and partner with other small producers to work in the basement prep kitchen. “I try to surround myself with awesome people,” he says.
Sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Based.