Union Kitchen, the District's first culinary incubator, announced a partnership Wednesday with the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES). The space officially opened in December 2012.
Jonas Singer co-owns Union Kitchen with Cullen Gilchrist (the pair also co-own Blind Dog Café in Shaw). During a press conference with the mayor, Singer said that one of the primary purposes of the incubator is to allow culinary innovators and "disruptors" to "focus on the product. We'll take care of the rest." Small businesses who choose to run their operations out of Union Kitchen will receive assistance with what Singer called the "business, regulatory, and real estate side" of running a culinary endeavor.
Union Kitchen follows a membership model, with each cooking station renting for roughly $500 per month. "That covers everything," Singer explains. "Building costs, parking lot, linens, utilities, cleaning, pest control, knife service — what we estimate to be about 10 – 25% of expenses for a small business."
DOES is providing matching grant money for graduates of Project Empowerment, a job training and subsidized employment program. Culinary entrepreneurs who successfully go through Project Empowerment and raise $500 for their first month's rent at Union Kitchen can receive up to $2,500 in grant money from DOES to pay for subsequent rent at the incubator.
"If you're ready to start your own culinary business," says David Zipper, director of business development and strategy at the deputy mayor's office for planning and economic development, "we'll be the wind at your back."
Singer estimates that Union Kitchen can hold 30 workstations. Curbside Cupcakes and TaKorean have been members for about six weeks, and Singer states that two more food trucks will be coming on board by March 1. "We should have about 20 members by March 1, and by April 1, we should approach capacity, except for the space we're reserving for the entrepreneurs from Project Empowerment," Singer says.
Other Union Kitchen members include DC Patisserie, Capital Kombucha, JLO Kitchens, Boyette Larder, Thunder Pig Confectionary, Ice Cream Jubilee, Chef Nadine Bailey-Joyner, and Blind Dog's own bakery.