Since it opened in 2015, ChefSpace has offered budding food-service entrepreneurs a chance to test out their concepts and build their business without the financial pressure of paying for a bricks-and-mortar operation. And these clients get something else — good business advice from professionals and peers within the program.
Located on West Muhammad Ali Boulevard in Russell, the ChefSpace facility is operated by Community Ventures, a nonprofit group that originally poured more than $4 million into the building for a professional kitchen operation that can house more than a dozen aspiring entrepreneurs.
One of those is Pasha Volokh, whose meal preparation business, MacroMan, is selling 3,000 meals per week, up from 60 just a short time ago. Volokh recently signed a deal to provide meals for the Louisville City FC soccer program.
That’s the kind of success the program is designed to create, said Andrew Held, the VP of Operations at ChefSpace. Before coming to ChefSpace, Held was responsible for marketing to students at Sullivan University.
He works with Kris Cole, who was a culinary arts instructor for nine years. Both men speak with enthusiasm about a one-week training program they’re developing that will offer entry-level restaurant workers a path to get beyond fast-food work and on the path to a career in foodservice.
“It will give untrained workers an opportunity to jump over the first 2-4 years they need in the restaurant industry,” Held says. “There’s a significant hole in the workplace, especially in Louisville with the opening of the Omni and other restaurants.”
The 15-hour courses will begin in May 2018, with a dozen students per class. ChefSpace is partnering with Texas Roadhouse, which has its own test kitchen in the facility, as well as placement agencies and Louisville Metro government, to help recruit students and place graduates in career-track restaurant positions.
ChefSpace’s entrepreneurial program is making news as well. Since 2015, 70 businesses have participated in the program, which includes a 36- to 48-month incubator period. Many of these businesses offer catering services, with some even providing goods to established restaurants.
Cole says that this spring, ChefSpace businesses started to offer residents and businesses a new restaurant option. Jay’s 120 will be open at ChefSpace from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with space for seating and plenty of food options from a pair of companies:
- In the mornings, Marinations Catering will offer fresh food from 7 to 11:30 a.m. Lake Langdon, who spent much of his life as a barber before taking an interest in the restaurant business, is the proprietor.
- Then, starting at noon, Lucretia’s Kitchen takes over the kitchen, serving up its authentic American cuisine and barbecue.
Cole says the idea is that when Marinations and Lucretia’s are ready to leave the space, another entrepreneur will be ready to step in. And the entire West End benefits from this by having another sit-down restaurant for residents. He says Lucretia’s has been serving a Sunday brunch for several months, with good crowds.
“All of our partners work together and help each other,” Cole says. “I thought it would be more cutthroat and competitive, but the businesses share ideas and contacts and really help each other.”