Caterers, cake bakers and other culinary entrepreneurs will soon be able to start or expand their food business with the help of a local nonprofit commercial kitchen.
Clovis Culinary Center will open in 5,000 square feet of what will become the Clovis Innovation Center at 3rd Street and Veterans Parkway, said Shawn Miller, business development manager for the City of Clovis.
The City of Clovis started kicking around the idea of opening a commercial kitchen after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Cottage Food bill into law, which allows entrepreneurs to prepare and/or package certain foods in their home kitchens.
“A whole bunch of entrepreneurs took advantage of this law, but many have grown so fast to where they could not make anymore; you can only bake so many dozens of cookies in your oven at home,” Miller said. “They’re not able to grow. So we thought ‘How cool would it be to have a commercial kitchen to rent the space to these small businesses?’”
The two certified commercial kitchens will offer round-the-clock access to a wide range of professional commercial equipment that will help users prepare their specialized products from start to finish.
“It will be great for aspiring chefs who aren’t able to handle the brick and mortar establishment,” said Chef Don Waddell, who was hired last month as Clovis Culinary Center’s executive director.
He will oversee the design, layout, equipment selection and construction of the facility.
“We’re going to have a savory side kitchen and a baking side kitchen, with good quality, state of the art equipment and a combi oven,” he said.
Waddell spend the last 12 years as a culinary director and instructor at Institute of Technology in Clovis and Fresno City College.
“Chef Don’s wealth of experience and industry knowledge has already made him a key addition to Clovis Culinary Center,” said Rich Mostert, president of the Clovis Culinary Center board of directors. “Our mission and the overwhelming demand from the local food industry led us to look for a team leader who will be at ease with the customers we serve as well as our vendors and partners. Chef Don is well respected and well liked by his peers, students and everyone who knows him.”
Clovis Culinary Center will also offer hands-on technical assistance from industry-minded professionals that include workshops focusing on basic food handling, developing business plans, marketing, social media, securing permits and licenses, access to capital and more.
More than 100 of these commercial kitchens exist in California, Miller said, but there are none between Oildale and Lodi.
“They’re concentrated in the Bay Area and southern California,” he said. “But in the one region that produces most of the food for the United States -- none.”
City officials met with the head of the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, which owns the two-story building across the street, and the two entities partnered to form the nonprofit Clovis Culinary Center.
“We ended up raising $250,000 in mostly grants and a small loan,” Miller said.
Other partners joined, including USDA, Northern California Community Loan Fund, California FreshWorks and the Fresno Chapter of the California Restaurant Association. Because of these community partners, special hourly rates and scholarships will be available to qualified veterans and residents of economically challenged areas of our region.
Fresno Ideaworks, a nonprofit that provides project collaboration and specialty tools and equipment for makers, plans to open a second makerspace in the Clovis Innovation Center, Miller said, and a robotics lab may also be housed in the 20,000 square-foot, two-story building.
Repairs and renovations to make the building ADA compliant are necessary before Ideaworks moves in, Miller said, but the city is already reviewing plans for Clovis Culinary Center.