Detroiters cooking up success in shared kitchens

Detroit Eastern Market, FoodLab Detroit helping people with good food ideas make money off them

DETROIT – April Anderson is in the kitchen by 3 a.m. baking cakes, cookies and cupcakes for her store Good Cakes and Bakes.

She ends her day at 8 p.m. when the store closes, but she doesn't mind the longer day.

"It's not work because I love baking," said April Anderson.

Anderson works from 3 a.m. until 8 p.m. four days a week.

Her time in the kitchen is thanks in part to Detroit Kitchen Connect. 

Anderson is able to work in a commercial kitchen at a more affordable rate to help get her business off the ground.

"Before Detroit Kitchen Connect I was baking at home, so I was under the Michigan cottage food law," said Anderson.  "My space was not as large as I needed it so I was having to turn down orders because I didn't have enough space."

To expand her business, Anderson started cooking in the kitchen at SS. Peter and Paul church in southwest Detroit in January 2013. 

By June she was busy enough she quit her day job. 

Then in September 2013, she opened the doors on her first storefront, Good Cakes and Bakes at 19363 Livernois in Detroit.  

That is an accomplishment she wasn't planning to do for a year.

"We're showing what can be done in under-utilized space," said Devita Davison, the community kitchen coordinator for Detroit Eastern Market.

Detroit Kitchen Connect is the brain child of Detroit Eastern Market and FoodLab Detroit.   The program uses under-used kitchens in churches and community centers in the city to give entrepreneurs a chance to take their business to the next level.   So far, Detroit Kitchen Connect has licensed 10 entrepreneurs through its community kitchens.

"We probably right now have a waiting list of over 75 entrepreneurs who are looking to take advantage of our space," said Davison. "They started at farmers markets, but now want to take their products to cafes, restaurants, maybe even Whole Foods, Meijers, Kroger, Westborn, but in able to do that, in order to step their business up, they may, they have to make their products out of a commercial licensed kitchen."

Detroit Kitchen Connect is a food incubator focused in Detroit neighborhoods to help Detroit natives launch their food business.   The entrepreneurs are working in two kitchens, but Detroit Kitchen Connect plans to open more.

They take advantage of kitchens in churches and community centers that are not being used regularly and open them up to these food entrepreneurs.

"Getting into the restaurant industry is very expensive.  It costs a lot of money to build out your own bakery, or your own restaurant or your own catering facility.   So this is a low barrier entry because folks are coming in and they're sharing the space," said Davison.

Chloe Sabatier uses Detroit Kitchen Connect to grow her business: Chez Chloe

One day a week she bakes as many as 200 French lava cakes to sell at the Eastern Market on Saturdays. 

She also sells her product at other businesses including Motor City Wine, Le Petit Zinc,  Door-to-Door Organics online, and Great Lakes Coffee.

"I can bake way more cakes by being here because it's a big, big kitchen," said Sabatier. 

She has made lava cakes since she was a child and is now trying to make the cakes a profitable business.

"It's a French specialty, a French pastry and I've always baked lava cakes my whole life," said Sabatier.

Sabatier moved to Detroit about a year ago, and launched her business on the advice of family and friends who loved the taste of her lava cakes.   She started about six months ago and is already ready to hire help.

"I'm hiring a baker in two weeks actually, so in spring or summer, I'm planning on baking three or four times a week.

Sabatier has big dreams for what Chez Chloe can become.

"Right now I'm going to people, I'm going to restaurants and cafes and delivering cakes.  In one or two years, I would love to have a little shop in Detroit so people can come to me and maybe opening something else in another city like Chicago or New York," she said.
Detroit Kitchen Connect charges cheaper rates to use its commercial kitchens because the goal is to give everyone an opportunity to develop their food business.  

They have rates as low as $15 to $18 an hour. 

"You don't have to use as much money to be in a kitchen. Other places charge almost like $40 an hour," said Anderson.

Other entrepreneurs using Detroit Kitchen Connect include Creme Detroipolis that uses sweet potatoes to make pies, truffles and ice cream and Jenn's Gluten Free Gems, who makes assorted gluten-free baked goods, including cookies, muffins and pies.

Anderson has advice for anyone interested in making a business out of food consider doing pop ups before actually opening a storefront.

"Pop ups is a great way to test your market," said Anderson.  "I did three pop ups before I opened because just because you have a good baked good and your family tells you it's good, that doesn't mean it will sell."

Detroit Kitchen Connect helps entrepreneurs get licensed and with other requirements to move forward with their business.  For more information, click here.