The new owners of the space formerly known as the Commissary have added a few new ingredients to what they believe will be a recipe of success for the facility and the restaurateurs and other food-makers who use it.
Brad DeHays and Scott Humphrys have renamed the facility at 1400 Dublin Road in Marble Cliff as 1400 Food Lab.
"Food Lab seemed a good name because it describes what goes on here," Humphrys said. "There's a lot of experimentation here. It's a test kitchen where people can fine-tune and grow their food business in a fully equipped and supportive space."
DeHays owns the building and approached Humphrys last year when it was clear the Commissary was struggling.
"We're both entrepreneurs and we didn't want to see the 60 to 70 people working out of this space put out the door with no place to go," Humphrys said. "Brad and I took a look at the operation and we figured with some reconfiguration, we could make a go of it.
"This space is important to the community and important to the spirit of entrepreneurship in the community," he said. "This facility provides a working space for people who are just starting a business and don't want to work out of their own kitchen and aren't ready to open up in their own space."
DeHays and Humphrys took over operations in February and began planning improvements for both the exterior and interior of the building.
A grand opening was held Aug. 24.
About 100 food-makers now work out of the site, Humphrys said.
The main test kitchen has been upgraded and the dry- and cold-storage areas have been expanded, he said.
"One of the big things we've done here is to improve our event space," he said. "It had been a little drab and wasn't being used to its full potential."
The space has been reconfigured to make it more inviting, with the flexibility to hold a variety of events, Humphrys said, including food classes, corporate team-building sessions, birthday parties, private dinners and test dinners, where food-makers can showcase their products and talents for potential clients and investors.
Two private kitchens are being installed and will be used exclusively by two clients whose companies are growing and need their own space to flourish, he said.
One of the kitchens will be occupied by FlexFrost, which specializes in high-protein, low-fat ice cream.
The second space will be used by Shannon Bowman, who owns and operates Bentos Lunch, providing catering and lunch service for companies and special events, and Fare and Square, a meal-delivery service for families.
"It will allow us to expand our business and continue to test the market and come up with additions to our menu," Bowman said. "We focus on providing healthy, wholesome meals and snacks made from scratch and without using preservatives and additives."
The atmosphere at 1400 Food Lab is "amazing," Bowman said.
"It's a collaborative space," she said. "You have people to bounce ideas off of and it's just nice to be surrounded by colleagues who are all involved in some type of food business. It's nurturing."
On a recent day, Dan Sanchez was using the shared kitchen to prepare empanadas for his business, Fist Food Revolution, which specializes in hand-held food from a variety of cultures.
Sanchez, who served nine years in the Army's Green Berets, said he would cook to relax after several combat tours.
"My dad is South American and my mom's family is from Eastern Europe, so I liked to prepare empanadas and pierogi from family recipes," he said.
Other foods he'd prepare came from his life experience and travels, whether it was calzones (he worked in an Italian restaurant in high school), samosa (his family's Indian neighbors would bring over samosa when Sanchez was young) or bastilla (a passion he developed during his military stints).
"I realized that although these foods were all from different cultures, they had a lot of similarities," Sanchez said. "They were cultural variations on the same theme."
Sanchez has been operating out of 1400 Food Lab for about six months.
"It's fantastic for a beginning business like mine, because you have access to all this state-of-the-art kitchen equipment that you could never afford on your own just starting out," he said.
The goal of 1400 Food Lab is to be an incubator that will allow food businesses to grow, Humphrys said.
"The right food product at the right time can really take off," he said. "We're hoping to see a lot of people moving in and out of here, because that means their businesses are successes."
For more information, visit 1400foodlab.com.