The idea started percolating roughly five years ago, when chef and one-time Charlie Trotter protégé Andrea Abedi took a look around Santa Fe’s culinary landscape and couldn’t find a meaningful or even particularly helpful commercial kitchen at the scale she wanted and needed.
Abedi’s business, The Temptress, was growing, but when you’re working as a private chef in Santa Fe, she says, you’re most often using kitchens inside people’s homes. When you’re working on building and scaling a business with no storefront or specific home base, however, good luck. While Albuquerque and Taos boasted commercial kitchens of one size or another, Santa Fe had no one-stop space.
That, she says, is technically when The Kitchen Table (313 Camino Alire, (505) 226-1984) was born, though the road to taking the concept from kernel of an idea to full-fledged and, frankly, impressive operation inside the old Desert Academy high school building on Camino Alire has been a long one. Now, though, a mere few weeks before The Kitchen Table’s grand opening, with final touches going in and a cadre of food purveyors ready to start working, Abedi and her business partner, Hilary Kilpatric, are anxious to pull the trigger. They’ve sunk their lives into the business, weathered a pandemic and land-use code changes, and have spent roughly $1 million garnered through a grant from the Regional Development Corporation and a private lender to transform a one-time school into a code-compliant and impossibly clean commercial kitchen business. This is the big one, folks, for chefs, caterers, food truck businesses and even farmers—and it looks so promising.
Much of The Kitchen Table’s potential comes from Abedi and Kilpatric’s partnership. Sure, it’s a great idea to have a space dedicated to just about every facet of commercial food products imaginable, but its ultimate success will hinge on Abedi and Kilpatric’s acumen. Their relationship dates back to high school, and they’ve got oodles of experience between them: Abedi in the kitchen and Kilpatric in business. The former attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York to learn to cook, then Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island for a hospitality degree. The latter attended UC Santa Barbara, picked up a CPA license along the way and even spent time in Guatemala, with the Peace Corps, and in Laos. While living and working abroad, Kilpatric mainly helped artists start their own small businesses, which, in part, is how she wound up back in Santa Fe working with the International Folk Art Market and where, she learned, Abedi had been kicking around the idea of starting a commercial kitchen business.
“It started with me needing a kitchen that didn’t exist in Santa Fe,” Abedi says, “and then it turned out there’s a lot of people who need one.”
“I had been supporting artists and entrepreneurs,” Kilpatric adds, “now it’s food artists and entrepreneurs.”
At the start, Abedi says, she went through Santa Fe’s bizMIX accelerator program, which not only helped would-be business owners identify the language and skillsets needed to start their projects, but connected them to meaningful networking opportunities. Through that program, Abedi realized her idea was a solid one. Kilpatric was the magic ingredient that brought the idea into reality. So began the work: the land-use requirements and permitting; the construction and that God-awful pandemic, which, Kilpatric says, upped certain costs by 30% and stalled permits. Cut to today, and The Kitchen Table is nearly complete. A recent tour with Abedi and Kilpatric proves that they’ve thought out and nailed down just about any detail, too.
Right inside the door, for example, you’ll find a sort of vestibule/waiting area space, which sits adjacent to a room rife with possibilities for public-facing events, such as pop-ups and dinners, meetings, whatever. Deeper within, a kitchen with numerous workstations has nearly been completed, and all down a long hallway are rooms for storage and refrigeration, including two massive and custom-built walk-in units. There’s a locker room/lounge, too, plus a large back entry door into which clients may load and unload. And, at the far end of Abedi and Kilpatric’s usable space, The Kitchen Table’s first anchor tenant, Squash Blossom CSA and its founder, Nina Yozell-Epstein, have set up shop. Squash Blossom won’t be part of the kitchen spaces, but can you even imagine the implications of fresh veggies literally already in the building?
It’s just one of the ways The Kitchen Table will operate differently than similar businesses of its ilk. Take, for example, accessibility. Abedi says that even when she has worked in commercial kitchens in the area, booking time isn’t always convenient, nor is transporting all your equipment and food and such. The Kitchen Table provides 24-hour access with video monitored security and dedicated stations and spaces within, allowing would-be members (more on that in a sec) constant control of how and when they get to work. With other amenities such as onsite management, some of the nicest ovens and cooktops in the business and free wi-fi, memberships are already filling up fast. Chef Fernando Ruiz of the soon-to-open Escondido taco joint is a member, for example, as are chef Dakota Weiss of Catch Poke and pickle/hot sauce proprietor David Ahern-Seronde, whose Apicklelypse hot sauce/pickling brand is easily one of the more exciting food-based wholesale businesses to come out of Santa Fe in recent years.
Memberships cost a monthly fee based on the number of hours a user might need. The more hours per month one claims, the cheaper the fees on things like extra hours and a la carte services. Of course, potential clients will need to already have their food manager’s and handler’s certificates, as well as their business licenses and liability insurance.
And it all comes in a picture-perfect layout with consideration to everything from the height of prep tables and whether or not a sink will be used for meat, to the temperature of the freezer and how the natural light spilling in through the windows might affect food photography. The Kitchen Table is still accepting member applications ahead of its projected April 27 grand opening date.
“We both wanted to come back and do something for our town,” Kilpatric says, “and we have different motivations. Mine is to empower entrepreneurs, and Andrea’s is more based on building a community in the food business. Our interests meet perfectly at the intersection of commercial kitchen.”
“For so long it was just a concept,” Abedi adds. “It was, y’know, papers and diagrams drawn out, and moving around sticky notes. To see the back end and front end coming together into a place where people can actually use this space is so exciting