Food and innovation collide at the new Kitchen Incb. A play on the idea of a startup incubator, the cooking and event space is not only a venue for cooking classes, pop-up restaurants and hosted dinners, but also burgeoning businesspeople with an interest in the State College food scene.
Bob Ricketts, owner of Fasta & Ravioli Co., said the inspiration for the “kitchen micro incubator” started with the space. It’s located at 129 S. Fraser St., where Fasta most recently operated.
“The space has been great for a lot of startups,” he said. “We started there. Herwig’s started there. A pizza shop started there years ago. ... It was a licensed space and we just weren’t taking advantage of the fact ... and we kind of saw a void in the market for retail space, especially retail space in town.”
For some, the space is the perfect opportunity to expand into a bigger retail space, without taking a giant risk.
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“I’ve got a kombucha company that’s going to be using it that was based out of Centre Hall,” Ricketts said. “They’re just outgrowing the space that they have, so it was kind of the perfect fit for them to kick it up to the next level without having to go through a lot of the red tape that you typically have to go through.”
Being as a member of the State College culinary community for quite a while, Ricketts has more to offer food startups than just space.
“We’ve been in business for eight years in State College and have a lot of relationships with restaurants and purveyors of local goods, so (are) able to say, ‘Check out this place for potentially selling your product,’ or, ‘Have you thought about doing this?,’ ” he said.
A need for retail space and business advice are not the only things Kitchen Incb. intends to address, however.
“There’s really a void in the community for people to be able to affordably test food startup concepts in an acceptable manner (according) to the local and state health regulations, and I think we’re filling (that) great void in addition to all the other fun aspects that you can use the space for,” Ricketts said.
Those fun aspects include private dinners hosted by partner chefs, including Mark Johnson, who puts on Big Spring Spirits tasting dinners, as well as cooking classes from the first partner instructor, LaCreta Holland of Happy Valley Learn to Cook. A variety of classes are set to be offered, covering everything from the most basic cooking skills to more advanced culinary skill sets, like butchering. One opportunity, which Rickett attributes as Holland’s idea, is cooking classes and other events during Penn State football games.
“It was her idea, and a great idea, (to try) to use the space during Penn State football games, for people that travel here, who may not necessarily want to be all into the football experience, to be able to have something to do that they’re passionate about,” he said.
While the pricing for classes is set by the individual instructors, Ricketts said the main goal of the space is not to make money.
“It being social entrepreneurship, we’re really encouraging learning and filling the space with giving people the ability to do fun, food-related things, more so than a monetary profit associated with it. We’re trying to keep the costs as reasonable as possible, predominantly just to cover the overhead,” he said.
While he hopes the space will be booked with several classes, dinners and lunches each week, he said the use of Kitchen Incb. will ultimately be up to the public.
“It kind of comes down to how the public wants to use it, whether it’s to have a nice lunch meeting or ... instead of going to a traditional restaurant, they want to work with a chef to have a several-course meal in a BYOB setting,” he said, but, at the end of the day, “it’s just a place for group indulgence, learning and for innovators to produce concepts related to all things food.”
For more information, visit www.kitchenincb.com.
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.