Ever since reading about hacker spaces, I've been idly daydreaming about the kitchen-equivalent, a shared space for culinary exploration. This would be a large, commercial-grade community kitchen where people could come together to share equipment, techniques, knowledge, camaraderie, ideas, and... of course... food. I know that, personally, there is a lot of commercial kitchen equipment that I'd love to have occasional access to, but which I can't afford (or justify the cost of) on my own. I'd love to play around with an antigriddle, for instance, but I can't see myself using it more than very occasionally. The addition of a decent dining room would make such a space ideal for cooking classes, demonstrations, potlucks, and parties. Still, it wasn't until this week that I saw the real potential of such a venture.
Locally, we have a really good farmer's market. This isn't a surprise - I live in the middle of Illinois, in a place surrounded by farms (which makes for good food but boring road trips). Public health just announced that they are cracking down on the sale of home-baked goods. Food made outside of kitchens with a valid health certificate won't be available at the market as a result. This will essentially shut down several vendors (including some local favorites). Now, at least one local restaurant is stepping up and letting bakers use their kitchen before the market, but what really interested me was Jason's comment on the Market's blog. He mentioned a kitchen incubator as a possible solution to the problem faced by bakers at the market. I'd never heard of one before, but a kitchen incubator is a commercial kitchen that is available for use (often at an hourly rate) to food-based start-ups. The idea is that a new business may well not have the capital to invest in a full commercial kitchen, but may still need access to one. Something like this would certainly solve our local baking dilemma. It would also be a great complimentary use for the sort of community-based kitchen that I have been envisioning.