The Kitchen Project heats up for Pacific foodies

Emerging Pacific food entrepreneurs in west Auckland can now apply for The Kitchen Project, a local initiative that offers affordable kitchen space for product development as well as a mentoring programme.


Connie Clarkson, Panuku Commercial Place Operations Manager, says, “The Kitchen Project will play an important role in building the communities we work in from the ground up.


“Food diversity is so important to any kind of growing city and food from various ethnicities, which includes Pacific, needs promoting.”


Born and raised in Singapore, Connie recalls attending a boarding school in Dunedin, where the food was bland, grey, cooked to death and smelt as such. But times have changed.


“When I moved to Auckland in 1989, the city had two food halls, one on Albert St and the other at Mercury Plaza near K Road,” she says.


“Now we can access food both grown and developed here or from other parts of the world. I love going to places like the Otara and Avondale Markets. I’ve always had a great affinity to food devoted to the way ordinary people eat.”


The Kitchen Project, inspired by La Cocina in San Francisco – one of the most successful kitchen incubators in the United States – aims to enhance Auckland’s foodscape by supporting the development of food and beverage with a focus on culture, healthy food and sustainable business practices.


La Cocina Deputy Director Leiticia Landa, who has been advising The Kitchen Project, says for San Francisco communities, in particular local migrant women, this type of incubator programme has been life-changing.


“Over the past 12 years, we have seen every kind of food business imaginable. By investing in emerging entrepreneurs and making our commercial kitchen more accessible we have seen 150 jobs created, 24 brick and mortar locations, and more than $4 million generated for the local economy,” says Landa.


Connie Clarkson says through the delivery of The Kitchen Project, Panuku has an opportunity to make the spaces being regenerated reflect the people that make up the communities.



“The Kitchen Project will play an important role in building the communities we work in from the ground up,” she says.


“By fostering sustainable local food and beverage businesses that belong in the community, we are encouraging a diverse and exciting food culture that underpins the great cities of the world.


“So many people have a dream to own a restaurant, but one in three fail in the 2-3 year mark and 60%, more than half, fail at the six-year mark. With the support of the Project, we’ll be looking at providing them up to six weeks of training.


"If they decide it’s for them, they’ll get another 20 weeks which will include working on their business plan. It’s a significant commitment, but at least they know they’re not going to lose the shirt off their back.”


Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) Acting General Manager of Business, Innovation and Skills Pam Ford says accessing commercial kitchen space can be a barrier for emerging food entrepreneurs, who also need training about how to establish a food business.


“The Kitchen Project will support the growth of food and beverage in Auckland through local communities, and consumer and supplier engagement. This will, in turn, increase employment and economic growth,” says Pam Ford.


The programme will be piloted in Henderson and will be based out of dedicated space in the Central One building on Henderson Valley Road. The pilot intake begins in March 2018.


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