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Kickstart kitchen

Meet the fall cohort of Kitchen 66

Kimberly Long shows off her treats from her catering business Big House Chow Line

Greg Bollinger

Mark Gawey is an architect by trade, but for 20 years, he’s been making tabouli for his family. The recipes are modified versions of the recipes his mother has cooked for the family since he was a child, and for the past six weeks, he has been fine tuning variations of tabouli, hummus, and kibbeh at the Kitchen 66 Launch Program.

Those products will be packaged under the Gawey Grocery brand, and the launch program is helping Gawey decide if he will sell them in retail outlets, like grocery stores, or create his own brick and mortar deli.

“I’ve been playing with different slogans, and I think I’m going with ‘Better tabouli… better life,’” Gawey said. “So far in the program, we’ve had some time in the kitchen, and a lot of legal information, accounting procedures—the nuts and bolts of doing business.”

Kitchen 66 is a program of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, and since its creation in 2016, it has helped more than 60 food professionals and entrepreneurs, and that’s not including the more than 40 other food-philes using Kitchen 66’s other services. Program manager Adele Beasley said they prefer to think of the business incubator as a “kick start kitchen” that helps would-be owner-operators break down barriers to entry in the food service industry.

“We have three different aspects to Kitchen 66,” Beasley said. “There is a shared kitchen that participants can rent at less than half of what the market would normally charge, which is good for testing recipes and refining processes. We also have programs that walk them through all aspects of the business, and sales support in the form of referrals and our Takeover Café.”

Gawey is thinking about using the Takeover Café while he works through his concept. The participants use a functional restaurant space on site to replicate all components of a working food concept: meal prep, line cooking, front-of-house service, etc. It’s very much like a practicum in ongoing education.

“During the program, participants work in the café or the community kitchen, and they receive training and education about the industry, and we help them refine what their concept is,” Beasley said. “Sometimes they come in thinking they want a food truck or a brick and mortar, and then learn packaged foods for sale in grocery might be a better approach with their products.”

Kimberly Long was an interior designer before she decided to change careers. Kitchen 66’s launch program is helping her take a relatively well-defined concept and tweak some of the components.

“The goal of Big House Dessert Company was to open a dessert-only restaurant, and then employ women who were in or coming out of recovery or prison,” Long said. “From that, I spun off Big House Chow Line, and I’ve used the concept to provide catering for offices, pharmaceutical reps, and other businesses.”

Long specializes in what she describes as Southern comfort food—“everything from chicken pot pie to German chocolate cake”—and she hopes to have a permanent facility by Spring 2019. She’s hoping for the Bixby area, or even downtown Tulsa, but one other factor might complicate her decision.

“Mother Road Market is opening this year … and I think they have one spot left,” she said. “If I could get in that spot, I’d stay there for a year and refine the concept.”

Mother Road Market is opening Nov. 2 and will be Tulsa’s first food hall. Although Beasley said they prefer not to use the “food court” verbiage, the model is based on food court logistics: restaurants or stores with small footprints arranged around a central dining area. Located at 11th Street and Lewis Avenue, the market will be the next step in the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation’s comprehensive vision to help improve Tulsa’s food and food business scene.

“There will be 17 concepts in the market, and some of them are Kitchen 66 grads,” Beasley said.     

There are seven participating concepts in the 2018 launch program class, with a variety of focus that includes a meal prep service, a chocolatier, a fine foods shop, and a healthy eating meal program. Gawey and Long have a traditional model in mind compared to some of the others, and for both it comes down to passion. Long said she wants to combine food with helping others. For Gawey, it comes from his love of food and family.

“I love to make tabouli,” he said. “I’ve made it to feed my family, and I enjoy the process of making it: tweaking recipes, and creating dishes. Tabouli is supposed to be a parsley salad; that’s the key. It’s the way my mom made it, and it’s the way I make it for my family.”

Now, Kitchen 66 is helping Gawey share that tabouli, as well as hummus, kibbeh, cabbage rolls, and other traditional Lebanese dishes with the rest of us.

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