A Butcher, a Baker and an Ice Pop Maker

Coconut Banana Tart by City Chicks


Since November, the owner of barbecue catering business The Bearded Pig and chefs from Cuisine en Locale have operated inside a 1,200-square foot commercial kitchen on the outskirts  of Union Square. Kitchen Inc (201 Somerville Ave.), one of the few culinary incubators in Massachusetts, gives them workspace, equipment, money and other support. But with interest in the place swelling, they won’t be the sole tenants for long.

Earlier this year, founder Mike Fuller posted on Craigslist a call for small business owners searching for a space with low rent and plenty of commercial-grade cooking equipment. He received about 100 responses. “We unfortunately don’t have room for nearly that many people,” he said.

However, three budding businesses whose owners are friends of the current tenants have gotten his approval. The City’s Board of Health has awarded one of the businesses the necessary permit to cook and sell their food. Fuller and the other prospective tenants, meanwhile, are confident that they will also be approved. All three have begun thinking about what they’ll do with the space.

Everything that a small food business needs

Kitchen Inc provides tenants with a communal space featuring a walk-in fridge and freezer, grill, convection oven, six-burner stove and other commercial-sized tools that most small business owners, especially new ones, would likely be unable to afford. A room for events and a section toward the storefront that Fuller said tenants could eventually use to sell their creations are also available.

That package appeals to Heather Schmidt and Carrie Diana, personal chefs and bakers who teach farm-to-table cooking classes and work with Cuisine en Locale. So they’ve applied to City Hall to take their venture, City Chicks, to Kitchen Inc. Schmidt said she envisions large classes of amateur cooks who would sit down at a table and eat what they had just made together in the kitchen.

“We’ve tailored our business model to what we want our lives to be,” she said.

Butcher Vadim Akimenko also aspires to bring his charcuterie business, Akimenko Meats, to the space. Akimenko said he would use the kitchen to turn locally raised whole animals into sausage, pâté, terrine or other cold, cooked meat delicacies distributed through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program called Black Market Charcuterie.

Meanwhile, Josh Danoff, the owner of Culinary Cruisers, a fleet of bicycle-powered mobile food carts that sell kombucha tea, has gained approval to anchor his business to the incubator. There he would work on furthering his latest venture, selling ice pops. Ocean Ave Pops will include flavors like watermelon, roasted banana and cantaloupe mint, he said.

Danoff, who lives in Teele Square, said he’s taken with the possibility of working and selling his products where he lives. He plans to move in soon.

“It was just really ideal to have it all here,” Danoff said.

Settling down at Kitchen Inc 

The changing cast of about 10 chefs who make up Cuisine en Locale might have to work around the schedules and personalities of new neighbors. But they’re not going anywhere, said Angie Gaimari, who has worked with Cuisine en Locale since September 2011.

“We love being here,” she said. “We’ve dedicated a lot to organizing this space. We want to stay here forever.”

The group gathers once a week at Kitchen Inc to prepare and deliver cooked food to both meat-eating and vegetarian locavores in Somerville, Cambridge and Boston. And now that they have “a real place to call home,” Gaimari said, it’s easier for the business to say yes to more requests for catering at weddings and parties.

Plus, she said, having neighbors with different skills and tools is a perk of sharing the space. Working alongside The Bearded Pig owner Michael Schmidt has allowed Cuisine en Locale to experiment with different cooking techniques for their services. Gaimari said that although Schmidt doesn’t allow anyone else to use his smoker, he would gladly prepare a rack of lamb or another piece of meat for her.

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