A kitchen, for the community.

(Editor’s note: Have you heard about the plans to build a community kitchen in Cambridge? They’re pretty awesome. On Sept. 14 at 7 pm there’s a meeting in Porter Sq to start the discussion on a broader level. We asked JJ Gonson, who helped coordinate the whole thing, to guest blog about it. Hope to see you there! visit www.cambridgecommunitykitchen.org for more details.)

In my culinary wanderings I have seen various solutions to the occasional need for a kitchen that is not a home kitchen.  In rural areas there are places like Grange Halls, where big community gatherings and dinners are held.

In Portland, Oregon, the reason there are so many food carts, is because there is cheap land, but the way they make it happen is that in the city there are multiple commisaries, or public kitchens that the cooks can rent by the hour, to get the food ready to go out on the cart.  Sometimes when caterers start out they share a kitchen, or rent from a restaurant, but there is no kitchen in the area around where I live where I can do that.

And that, pretty much is what I wanted to do.  In many cities and towns around the country there are kitchens, commisaries and public spaces where people can go to make food and share it with other people.  There is even one big building in Boston where developing businesses can go, but there is only one and the waiting list is long.

As I have worked for the past five years (as a personal chef) I’ve looked, seriously, for a kitchen I could use for the occasional really big job, and I know, pretty well what there is.  Or, more to the point, what there isn’t.  The trouble was that I knew that I did not want to own a kitchen, or I would just be a restaurant and stop moving things all the time. When I was approached by a young woman with an idea for a community space, focused on education around food and nutrition I knew that it was a project I wanted to work on.

The project is called Cambridge Community Kitchen, and is, most simply, a mission to build a certified kitchen that can be used by the community and is developed as an educational/community center.  In other words, you could throw a party there, or go there to can a lot of tomatoes and get help doing it, if you wanted it.  Or if you were starting a brownie company you could use it once a week to bake.  Or you could go there to teach a class, or to take one.  Or to hold a conversation about a community food project…

We will have a library, and resources, and we are very excited and quickly realizing that we are not the only people who want these things.  We do not yet have a space, but we have started filing the paperwork we need to get things going, and we are reaching out now to the community–to Cambridge and Somerville, Belmont, Arlington, Watertown, and Boston.

We do not want to own this, we want it to be a place where we can do what we want to do, and do it in a clean, safe environment, together.

The first big meeting to introduce the idea is coming up on Sept 14th. I am really excited about it, and the five of us who have started the ball rolling will be there to talk a little bit about it and, most importantly to encourage your ideas and open up some conversations.  We know that there are a lot of companies looking for kitchen spaces, and we know that there are people who want to take classes.  How do we get from here to there?

If you would like to attend, RSVP to cambridgecommunitykitchen@gmail.com.  Even if you can’t make the meeting, let us know if you want to be kept in the loop about the kitchen as it develops, and tell us if you might want to use it, or get involved later.

Hope to see you on Tuesday!

2 comments

  1. That’s so interesting! I moved from the Hudson Valley, NY a couple years ago where they have a similar space called Foodworks — though it’s priced to appeal to emerging food production businesses more than a group of canners, say. http://hudsonvalleyfoodworks.org/ Having toured that facility, I found that kitchens really need to fit the scale of the project.

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