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Spice Kitchen Incubator helps refugees start culinary businesses

Aug 30, 2018 01:03PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Two hopeful entrepreneurs practice their culinary skills at the Spice Kitchen Incubator. (Cami Mondeaux/South Salt Lake Journal)

By Cami Mondeaux | c.mondeaux@mycityjournals.com

The Spice Kitchen Incubator, which stands for Supporting the Pursuit of Innovative Culinary Entrepreneurs, is a program of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) providing commercial kitchen space and business expertise to refugees and other disadvantaged individuals.

The program is modeled after La Cocina, a non-profit organization located in San Francisco with a similar mission statement. Spice Kitchen received technical assistance from La Cocina to launch in 2013 and subsequently opened their current location with a commercial kitchen in 2014.

Spice Kitchen’s website states their mission is to “develop successful food businesses, preserve their culinary traditions and share their talents with the Salt Lake County Community.” The program aims to give these individuals opportunities that may be impossible otherwise.

“Many refugees that were arriving and taking part of the resettlement process had experience cooking in their home countries,” said Kathryn Idzorek, program manager of Spice Kitchen. “A lot of them wanted to be able to utilize those culinary skills and… sell food professionally here in the U.S.”

The program has a general model consisting of four stages that each applicant completes. These four stages include: Application & Enrollment, Pre-Incubation, Incubation, and Graduation. Every completed program is specific to the mission statement and long-term goals of the applicant.

The first stage, Application & Enrollment, occurs when an individual applies for a position and is then called in for an interview. “It is a competitive program,” said Idzorek. During this stage, the applicants are evaluated for characteristics and traits necessary for success. “Ultimately, we are looking for entrepreneurial spirit.”

The second stage, Pre-Incubation, establishes the aspects of the applicant’s specific mission statement and long-term goals. During this time, they aim to become confident with their business plan and begin to launch their business.

The third stage, Incubation, is where applicants begin to obtain hands-on experience. Spice Kitchen provides a commercial kitchen to use and market opportunities to sell and serve their food. These opportunities are accomplished through Spice To-Go meals, farmers markets and catering.

The final stage, Graduation, takes place when the applicant expands their business outside of Spice Kitchen while still having contact to use as an available resource when needed.

The program enrolls twice a year in groups of 10. Individuals who choose to go through the program can apply or be recruited. “We actively recruit, and we want to work with excellent chefs and give them that opportunity,” said Idzorek.

Spice Kitchen Incubator not only reaches out to refugees and new Americans, but also to low-to-moderate income families in the area. According to Idzorek, Spice Kitchen is represented by 38 different businesses and from people across the globe.

Through their catering and other market opportunities, a variety of international cuisines are available to try. Different cuisines include: African, European, Russian and more. These cuisines are introduced as different individuals choose to enter the program.

Spice To-Go meals are offered every Thursday, showcasing a featured entrepreneur. They must be pre-ordered prior to pick up.

That is what makes Spice Kitchen so unique. Idzorek encouraged local residents to try the Spice To-Go meals and said, “It’s like a passport around the world. You get to try food from all [over].”

For more information visit spicekitchenincubator.org or email spice.kitchenincubator@rescue.org


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