Mar 06, 2012 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects
The California food community is abuzz about The California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616), a proposed new state law that would legalize selling foods that are produced in home kitchens. I think that allowing small scale food producers to start legitimate businesses out of their homes and eliminate, at least temporarily, the cost of renting a commercial kitchen could have a great impact on our burgeoning food community and the local economy. Commercial kitchen space isn’t the only cost of starting a food business, but it’s a pretty significant one. Not only that, from my personal experience as a jam-maker in the Bay Area, there simply aren’t enough commercial kitchens available – finding a kitchen that suits one’s needs can be an extraordinary challenge.
When I first started INNA jam as a hobby, I was working out of my home kitchen. Before too long I outgrew the little stove and limited counter space, so when INNA became a business I moved my work into a commercial kitchen. I did this for legal reasons, but also because I needed the space and facility that a commercial kitchen provides (and cooking spicy jalapeño jam in my tiny house was nicknamed “fumigating” by my boyfriend). Some food producers might look forward to working in their state-approved home kitchens, but I personally was happy to graduate to the next level. Home was a great place to discover jam making, develop recipes, and refine my craft, but I needed to find a more professional way to produce jam in larger quantities.
The first shared commercial kitchen I worked in was a small storefront bakery with a single burner. The second commercial kitchen was a shared catering kitchen that hosted five full-time tenants. While both were big improvements from my tiny home kitchen, neither of those spaces were the right fit for my jam company: not enough hours available in the shared kitchen, inappropriate equipment, a severe lack of storage space. In order to avoid contamination I worked at night when no one else was there. It was very hard work, but not unusuall for startup food businesses – almost every other food producer I’ve talked to is faced with similar challenges and limitations. Space, the final frontier. There is a real shortage of commercial kitchens in the Bay Area, so most food producers have to work crazy hours, juggle multiple storage locations, and improvise with the facilities they can find.
After a couple of difficult years working out of shared commercial kitchens that were not very well-suited for making jam, I decided to invest the time and resources to build a specialized jam kitchen. The new INNA jam kitchen in Emeryville is currently under construction and I expect it will be ready in time for the spring harvests (There’s a kickstarter campaign going on right now to raise funds for the much needed equipment: http://kck.st/xZ2oSS). I’m building a kitchen that’s specialized for preserving fruits and vegetables, outfitted with the appropriate equipment, plenty of storage space, and no chance of contamination (the kitchen with be gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and meat-free). What excited me the most about this new kitchen is that it will be a resource for other producers like me who work with fruits, vegetables, and herbs – making jams, pickles, hot sauce, syrup, teas, etc. Aside from sharing the space with like-minded businesses, I look forward to more closely collaborating with the farmers that I work with. The new kitchen will not only allow me to increase production of INNA jam, resulting in increased support of local organic agriculture, but it will also give me the flexibility to schedule my jam-making around their harvests, and make jam specifically for them – to preserve the fleeting season into a jar and create a value-added product that they can continue selling long after the first frost has come.
Dafna Kory is the founder of INNA jam, producing single-varietal fruit jams and spicy pepper jams from organic fruit locally sourced within 100 miles of her kitchen. Dafna served as a committee member for the 2012 Preserves category and as a judge for the 2012 Pickle category. She recently launched Provender Social Club, a monthly gathering connecting food producers. See a video and learn more about her new jam kitchen here: http://kck.st/xZ2oSS.