Kitchen neighborhood grows | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | March 24, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: March 23, 2017 at 8:20 am
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
On March 13 the Colleton Commercial Kitchen hit a milestone.
That day, Colleton Commercial Kitchen Manager Matt Mardell told a group of visitors, marked the first time the facility’s five commercial kitchens were all in use at the same time. It was the first time the kitchen was at full occupancy.
Marcus and Zetoya Pinckney’s Soulful Taste were one of occupants working at the facility that milestone day, the newest residents of the Colleton Commercial Kitchen.
On March 2, the owners of Soulful Taste began operating a grab-’n-go lunch, specializing in healthy and fresh lunch options, in the county-owned facility.
Their wraps, salads and fruit cups joined the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market lunch menu, providing an alternative to the lunch items offered by Atol Bakery, another resident of the commercial kitchen.
The food service entrepreneurs “are kind of like neighbors,” said Mardell.
The neighborhood breaks down into two categories: those preparing items for on-site purchase and those who are using the facilities to prepare and package food items headed to the shelves. “They are two very different animals,” Mardell said.
Soulful Taste has been operating as a catering business in Walterboro for a number of years. At some point in the future, Mardell said, Soulful Taste may begin using the commercial kitchen for its catering business.
At the beginning of 2017, Mardell said, the commercial kitchen had five clients using the facility. In less than three months, he added, that number has doubled.
Mardell said the neighborhood should be growing again in the coming weeks. “We have another user in the pipeline that would make cakes, packaged and shelf staples.” Also possibily moving into the kitchen soon will be another new sauce company.
“There are another three or four in the pipeline,” Mardell said. “We are really starting to climb rapidly.”
Mardell said that if the commercial kitchen experiences any growing pains, it will likely come this summer when the summer feeding program goes back into operation. This will be the second year the commercial kitchen has been home to the feeding program, operated by the county under a federal grant.
Mardell said that last year the commercial kitchen took part in a doctorate program conducted at the University of Colorado, that is easing his paperwork duties, as well as the users’ scheduling. Colleton Commercial Kitchen joined a variety of commercial kitchens nationwide in the project that created an app-based software for the operation of commercial kitchens.
Based on that work, Mardell said, “all my calendars are on line.” Calendars for each of the specific kitchens in the complex allow the users to go on-line and schedule their time in the kitchen.
In addition to making it easier for kitchen users to schedule times, the software handles their accounts each month. “I never have to concern myself with billing or paperwork again,” Mardell said.
The commercial kitchen is scheduled to participate another test soon that seeks to improve the software.
One of the best facets of the work in the development of the software application was that it put Mardell in contact with other commercial kitchens across the nation. Those participating in the development project are getting online and sharing information.
That participation has resulted in the kitchen facilities gaining some exposure nationally, Mardell said, including a visit to the commercial kitchen last week by the executive chef director of Safeway, a West Coast supermarket chain.
The company officials had a visit to Charleston planned. “He had heard about us, and he wanted to drive down here and take a look,” Mardell said.
Next fall, Mardell added, the commercial kitchen will cap off what he believes will be a successful year when it hosts the Feeding Innovation competition conducted by the South Carolina Community Loan Fund (SCCLF).
The annual statewide competition has been held in South Carolina’s largest communities.
Geared to food service start-ups, the competition has the participants undertake eight weeks of business classes in building a business plan.
Then they face a panel of judges to outline their ideas and explain that business plan.
The winner receives $12,500 in seed money and project backing from the SCCLF.
“It is a great program,” Mardell said. “It will be drawing more and more people to Colleton Commercial Kitchen.”