The Heart of the Community
By Jordan Rosales
It is often said that the kitchen is the heart of the home, a place where families gather around the warm room for conversation and traditions. The kitchen is more than just a room where food preparation happens, its where bonding happens. Nothing brings people together quite like food. Downtown Stockton is no different because here, the kitchen is now the heart of the community! As of earlier this month, BellaVista is now home to the new Stockton Community Kitchen.
The Perfect Ingredients
Stockton Mayor, Michael Tubbs had long wanted a place where low-income folks with big goals could have their dreams realized, he just never had all the right pieces. Originally he tried to start the program from scratch by guiding a commercial kitchen downtown but that would’ve cost millions of dollars. Since he was never able to find the right person to lead the project, it never got off the ground. That’s when Rima Barkett came in to save the day. She had all the ingredients for the projects success, not only is she an accomplished chef, restauranteur, and author, but she also has an extensive history of philanthropy. Her main passion is giving women who lack opportunities and resources access to them in order to have a fair shot. Rima’s record of working with other non-profits made her the perfect fit to helm this proverbial ship. Rima was able to offer her commercial kitchen for the program’s use. Through her connections, she was able to build a team of experts from the business world and the food industry to volunteer and teach about all aspects entrepreneurs will need to run a successful business.
Cooking up a Brighter Future
The Stockton Community Kitchen is a local non-profit partnership that aspires to help underserved communities achieve entrepreneurial success. It is a food incubator enterprise that provides its chefs and future business owners all the tools they will need to start a new local business. The goal of the Stockton Community Kitchen is to offer mentorship, support, and business expertise to under-resourced communities in order to help them succeed in the competitive world of food service. Essentially, the offer people who already have the skills in the kitchen, the skills to run a business as well.
A recipe for success
Anyone who wants to apply for the program must first meet the five qualifications. First and foremost, they must be a low-income individual as specified by the Housing and Urban Development guidelines of San Joaquin County. Since their mission is to help elevate those with the highest barriers to entry in the food industry, the Stockton Community Kitchen also takes access to opportunities into consideration. Second, you must have a business idea ready. Once in the program, a mentor can help you refine and build upon your idea but when applying, you must have an idea that is wholly your own. Third, you need to have product viability. When entering a highly competitive industry like the food industry you need to have a unique and innovative concept that sets you apart from other products on the market. Fourth, you must possess an entrepreneurial spirit. Starting a new business can be very demanding and without passion or a strong drive, it can become incredibly overwhelming. Applicants need to show they have a strong work ethic and the grit it takes to start a business from scratch. Lastly, the applicant must have community spirit. Because Stockton is an incredibly diverse community, participants must show that they are able to work with and serve people from all backgrounds.
Once you have met the qualifications you can go to an application workshop where you’ll be taught how to properly complete the application, while this step isn’t necessary it can be helpful. The program itself consists of four distinct steps. The first step is application and enrollment. The Stockton Community Kitchen accepts applications year-round but the program only runs three times a year. The second step is the pre-incubation. The pre-incubation period is a four-month process where participants will receive hands-on training from industry professionals. They will focus on business basics like product development, marketing, financing, and managing daily operations. During this period participants create their own schedules to meet with their mentors. The third step is the incubator. After a successful first four months, participants will continue their previous training and start to develop skills more specific to their individual business objectives while having access to the affordable commercial kitchen facilities to support their business. The fourth and final step is graduation. After successfully reaching all program benchmarks participants become graduates of the Stockton Community Kitchen.
The goal of the Stockton Community Kitchen is to help underprivileged and underrepresented groups achieve business success and shape the landscape of Stockton’s diverse culinary future
For more information about The Stockton Community Kitchen call them at (209) 608-5455 or visit their website https://stocktoncommunitykitchen.org/