Cape Cod Culinary Incubator a place to nurture fledging food businesses

HYANNIS ― At the Cape Cod Culinary Incubator, Sandy Rowland bakes up treats for Washashore Bakery and Jay Powell of JP’s Twisted BBQ cooks his specialties for the Cape Cod Beer Co.

In June, the incubator officially opened for business after moving to KAM Appliances' new facility in Hyannis.

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The nonprofit provides opportunities for culinary entrepreneurship by renting kitchen space at the facility for members to develop ideas for food products or food-related businesses. Established food businesses like Powell’s and Rowland's can also find a convenient space to create their culinary specialties.

What does Cape Cod Culinary Incubator do?

The Cape Cod Culinary Incubator was founded by Lee Hill in 2013 with the vision of providing a place where food entrepreneurs could produce food products for sale, Board President Linda Davey said.

For example, if somebody has a recipe for their grandmother’s spaghetti sauce or a special chocolate chip cookie that friends said they should market, the Culinary Incubator gives them the opportunity to develop the product and guidance on how to market it, she said.

“We help develop the products for marketing from the branding, labeling, packaging to obtaining the wholesale permits and the retail permits," Davey said. "We coach people through the whole process.”

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The Culinary Incubator also assists with networking, helping people make connections with other entrepreneurs and with other businesses. It can help make contacts with farmers markets and grocery stores to identify prospective markets.

The incubator also helps entrepreneurs establish culinary businesses such as food trucks and catering.

Like its clients, the Cape Cod Culinary Incubator, previously known as the Commercial Kitchen Cooperative of Cape Cod, started with an idea − Hill’s vision back in 2013.

For the past nine years, that idea has gradually grown and developed.

What facilities are available to food entrepreneurs?

The corporation did not have a kitchen until 2017 when KAM Appliances, then at the corner of Route 28 and Willow Street, allowed the incubator to use some of its kitchen appliances to host cooking classes to raise funds.

“It helped us to build up the organization and get some name recognition and to establish a relationship with KAM Appliances,” Davey said.

Then when KAM moved to its current facility at 6 Aggregate Way, it rented kitchen space to the incubator. In May, the incubator started to provide tours and member orientation sessions before relaunching in June.

The Culinary Incubator now has a 1,500-square-foot kitchen that has double-stacked convection ovens. It also includes proofing and baking ovens, a steam oven, a six-burner gas range, a 30-gallon steam kettle, a tilt skillet and braiser, a griddle, fryolators and a walk-in cooler and freezer to rent to members.

What does it cost to be part of the Culinary Incubator?

Members pay a $50 per month membership fee and can rent kitchen space for $35 per hour. If more time is needed in the kitchen there are various packages: for 10 hours it costs $250 to rent, for 20 hours, $500 and for 40 hours, $850.

“The startup costs are from about $550 to $1,000 as opposed to doing it on your own,” Davey said.

That may seem like a lot, but Davey said to rent kitchen space at other facilities costs could start at $2,000 per month and with other expenses as high as $4,000 per month.

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Powell said that the cost of working in and renting a commercial kitchen to start a business can be as high as $1 million to $1.5 million.

“It is such a great opportunity for people to get into this business without having to mortgage their house,” he said.

Rowland said it is a great “jumping board” for people considering having a business to put their products out.

The basic kitchen rental is mainly for developing ideas and the product. Once that is completed, the Culinary Incubator coaches them through the marketing process.

It also helps create a logo for the product, design a label with all the nutritional information. “How do you know how many calories a food item has? We help with budgets to figure out the cost of items,” Davey said.

Once a product is ready for sale, the organization helps with obtaining a food permit, insurance and the required certifications.

Here's what some Culinary Incubator members say about the service

The Culinary Incubator has 15 active members and a few seasonal members, including a couple of food trucks, bakers, caterers, a member who makes spiced nuts and one who makes puffed quinoa, Davey said.

Powell, an award-winning restaurateur, has been featured on The Food Network on various shows such as Supermarket Stakes, Cooks and Cons and several episodes of The Phantom Gourmet.

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About two-and-a-half years ago, Powell’s food truck business began supplying the Cape Cod Beer Co. But he relied on the Worcester Regional Food Hub kitchen because food trucks are required to have a base of operations approved through the Board of Health.

So Powell had to do all the cooking in Worcester and transport it to Cape Cod daily. Such logistical problems were avoided when he joined the Culinary Incubator last summer.

“It is more of a country club kitchen rather than a restaurant line kitchen," he said. "It is a dream kitchen. It really is. Now, with the incubator involved, it is a dream come true.”

Running a bakery without a storefront

Such was the case for Rowland, who owned and operated the Washashore Bakery for more than five years at the Mashpee Commons.

When her lease was up last year, she decided the pressure of running a storefront bakery was too much. “The quality of life is better, I was at the breaking point,” Rowland said.

Now, Washashore Bakery operates exclusively out of the Culinary Incubator.

“I get to do everything at my own time," Rowland said. "I pay my monthly package and don’t have to worry about overhead stuff. I have my space to come in and bake and when I’m done, I’m done.”

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Cape Cod Culinary Incubator is home base for start-up food businesses