People in Portland are coming together around food — and not just around a dining table. Community kitchens have been popping up around Portland in recent years to provide space and resources for everyone from families cooking on a budget to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Modeled after the community kitchens of Canada and Seattle, Kitchen Commons is working to create a network of kitchens in Portland. The initiative started in November 2011 with an idea.
“I’ve been interested in community kitchens as a potential tool for addressing hunger and food insecurity for a long time,” says Jocelyn Furbush, Commons Coordinator. So she started the ball rolling by creating Kitchen Commons.
Their mission is not merely to create kitchen spaces, but instead to serve as a resource for how a community kitchen would work and help connect interested individuals with willing kitchens.
“We figured it would be helpful to start demonstrating the type of activities that could happen in these spaces,” says Furbush.
These activities include cooking classes and cooking groups where people share the cost of groceries and cook together. Kitchen Commons’ first cooking class was hosted by Trinity Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in partnership with the Oregon Food Bank. It was a six-week “Cooking Matters” class that taught kitchen basics for adults and how to eat healthy on a budget.
Kitchen Commons’ partnership with Trinity began when Furbush asked to use the church simply as a meeting space. Church member Florence Jenkins was immediately drawn to the Kitchen Commons message.
“When I saw that it was about cooking and kitchens and hopefully a venue for entrepreneurs, I thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to get her in here,’ ” says Jenkins, Pilot Kitchen coordinator. She is also the owner of Exquisite Indulgence Desserts and has been struggling to get her business up and running.
“I understand what’s it’s like to be an entrepreneur and not be able to afford a kitchen or your own retail space,” Jenkins explains.
Jessie Burke, the proprietor of Posies Bakery and Café in North Portland, also makes kitchen space available to aspiring entrepreneurs as well as established chefs.
Like many neighborhood cafés, Posies is like a second living room to many who live nearby. Its large dining area provides a comfortable place to enjoy coffee, soups, sandwiches and baked goods.
Some of the bakery items are made in the small yet capable kitchen in the back of the café. However, the presence of an on-site bakery doesn’t necessarily mean that the baked items sold in the café are made there. Posies imports many of their baked goods because the kitchen is often in use by tenants.
Burke, who started the café in 2008, decided a year after opening that she would rent the small kitchen space to bakers and cooks. Since then, she has housed caterers, food-cart owners and even culinary students in her kitchen.
“There are a lot of people who are into food and into cooking in Portland, but don’t have a space to do it,” says Burke. “There’s a real demand for kitchen space for people to use without having to have the expense of a permanent location.” In addition, renting Posies’ kitchen provides additional support for Burke and her business, maximizing her earnings per square foot.
As for Florence Jenkins, she is still hoping to find ways to expand Exquisite Indulgence Desserts. She is also excited about taking cooking classes and hopes more kitchens will consider opening their doors to entrepreneurs.
“I love food, I love fellowship and I love fun,” says Jenkins.
Note: Posies Bakery and Café’s kitchen space is currently rented.