Bridge launches Community Kitchen incubator for budding chefs

Bridge launches Community Kitchen incubator for budding chefs
Photo contributed.

By Kathy Chouteau

Amid pandemic-driven restaurant closures devastating food businesses and the communities they serve, the Bridge Commissary Kitchen at Richmond’s Bridge Storage and ArtSpace is launching a new venture aimed at lending chefs a helping hand.

The new program—called the Bridge Community Kitchen—is a food hall-style incubator for budding chefs so that they can gain entry into the retail food sales market at an approachable price point, according to Bridge Operating Partner Phillip Mitchell.

As part of the initiative, Mitchell is negotiating one-year leases with the landlords of empty restaurant spaces in Richmond, the East Bay, San Francisco and beyond—possibly including the former Trevino’s Mexican Restaurant on San Pablo in El Cerrito. Bridge then will invite interested chefs to operate their own food businesses via the shared spaces—which also translates into shared costs when it comes to the lease and utility bills. The shared spaces may have a schedule where two chefs work in the first part of the day, and two chefs work in the afternoon, concurrently operating their own take-out food businesses.

While Bridge covers the cost of licensing and health permits, chefs will be able to select from two tier levels to determine the extent of support they will receive from Bridge Commissary Kitchen to back their venture, as well as Bridge’s portion of the revenues. More details are available from Mitchell.

“This is the single most important initiative I have put together since opening the kitchen, as it will help get caterers back to work and put Richmond on the map as a small food business incubator,” said Mitchell about the new venture.

Mitchell is currently looking for chefs interested in signing up for the Bridge Community Kitchen, as well as local landlords of empty restaurant spaces interested in doing a one-year lease for starters. Upon signing on, chefs will enter the program by working out of the state-of-the-art Bridge Commissary Kitchen selling prepared lunches to-go as part of an existing offering at Bridge Storage and ArtSpace’s creative compound at 23 Maine Ave. in Richmond.

“They can come to Bridge and start selling food as early as next week,” said Mitchell, who estimates chefs should “graduate” the first part of the Community Kitchen program after about one month. During that time, Mitchell said “good chefs will learn to be good business people,” as they earn money while benefiting from his mentorship services (depending on which tier they participate at). From there, the chefs move on into one of the shared restaurant spaces, where they can take their food business to the next level.

Mitchell’s goal is to finalize lease negotiations with the landlords of ten empty restaurant spaces throughout the local region within the next six months, with the Trevino’s deal possibly happening in the next 90 days. Two local foodies already signed up for the new endeavor include Chef Brittni Waugh of Soulfully Dope and Chef Alreca—both of whom currently offer to-go lunch service via the Bridge Commissary Kitchen.

“This is definitely a passion of mine to help chefs realize their dreams,” said Mitchell.

To learn more about Bridge Commissary Kitchen, click here. To contact Phillip Mitchell about the Bridge Community Kitchen opportunity for landlords and chefs, call 510-672-0006 or email [email protected].