What’s cooking at The Kitchen in Roanoke?

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Maureen Best is executive director of LEAP, which
opened The Kitchen. Photo by Don Petersen

The Kitchen may sound like the catchy name for a restaurant. The recently opened Roanoke facility, however, is designed to create food-related businesses, not meals.

The 769-square-foot facility includes two kitchens that can be rented out separately. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days week.

“We don’t have any limits on the number of businesses that can use it. It depends on space usage,” says Maureen Best, executive director of the Roanoke-based nonprofit Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), which opened The Kitchen. “One company might need it for three hours a day, and another might need it for five hours.”

One of the aims of The Kitchen is to help prospective business owners network and find the resources they need to get started.

“We already have relationships established in the community, and we have a lot of strong programs that already exist,” Best says. “We will help with the regulatory side. We are versed in that. We run two farmers markets in Roanoke where they could sell their products. We have permanent vendors and some flex booths, and that is a test market option for tenants.”

The Kitchen is located in Roanoke’s West End neighborhood, an area of the city considered a “food desert,” with little access to grocery stores. The project received a $25,000 grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Local Food Promotion Program and a $100,000 grant from the Roanoke Women’s Foundation.

The facility also received a $20,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with matching funds from Roanoke’s Economic Development Authority as well as other funding.

“There’s a huge interest,” says Best, noting that she has received several applications from companies. “One is starting a food truck business. They will be doing food prep. Other companies interested include a salsa company, a doughnut company, a company that makes a specialty sauce and people making ethnic cuisine.”

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