More eateries are coming to a shared kitchen space retrofit for novice restauranteurs.
Allen Place’s incubator kitchen lets entry-level restaurateurs test their menu items and business management skills, said Facilities Manager Matt Jones. A number of entrepreneurs have successfully moved on, opening space for new ones.
“Recently, it also got sponsored by Lake Trust (Credit Union) and they also offer small entrepreneurial grants for makers in here,” Jones said.
If a business experiences growth in revenue and seeks to expand operations, owners can apply for a spot in the Allen Place’s Accelerator Kitchen, which many have.
Currently, the space is used by Urblends, Hobies Catering, A Bit Better and Smokeshow BBQ and GoGi2, for cooking and preparation. They will be joined by Tatse and Dot’s Catering. Jones said another restauranteur is expected to join but could provide details.
Taiwo Adeleye said his business opens at 4 p.m. July 24, offering jollof rice, plantains and a spread of vegetables.
Joshua Bays, owner and chef at GoGi2, sells platters at the center’s Wednesday markets from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
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Dot’s Catering: Sicilian favorites, Chicago-style pizza
Rebecca Sylvester’s grandmother is from Sicily and taught her how to make some of the popular dishes. After meeting her fiancé, Jeremy Mortenson, a culinary school graduate, they put their love of food together to start a catering business.
Jones said Dot’s Catering is expected to begin operations in the incubator kitchen in the near future after Sylvester acquired a commercial license from the county health department.
Her menu includes Sicilian favorites like lasagnas, cannolis and pastas. But her most exciting dish is an authentic Chicago pizza that Sylvester believes is the best in the area.
“You say ‘Chicago pizza’ people think deep dish. I grew up in Chicago. Deep dish is not the norm,” Sylvester said. “It’s actually a very thin crust tavern style. I perfected it. I actually duplicated it, and got very excited because now I can make my own Chicago pizza.”
No employees are officially on payroll, but some could be added in the fall. Sylvester said she has help from family members and close friends at the moment.
Allen Place is a perfect spot for Dot’s Catering as Sylvester can sell items out of the kitchen to market shoppers and reduce operational costs. But long term, she hoped to purchase a food trailer to travel to various events.
She estimated a fully outfitted trailer would cost around $25,000.
“That’s what weddings are going to, food trucks pull up. And festivals and things, everybody wants a food truck.”
Until she begins operations in the east side kitchen space, Sylvester said catering for small events will continue out her home.
“It’s just a take it a day at a time and see what happens or what kind of response I could get, and then grow from there,” she said.
She will share a space with owners of Gogi2, who have been operating out of the incubator kitchen since July 2020.
Gogi2: Southern Korean stir fry, bulgogi
Chefs Joshua and Yaya Bays serve up traditional Korean dishes with a southern flair. Their food is made from scratch and uses Halal meat.
Joshua learned the dishes from his mom, Yong, who’s from Seoul, South Korea, while living in Mississippi. He met Yaya there, and the two moved to Lansing where Joshua worked at GM until a pandemic-related layoff last year. The automaker recalled employees in May 2020.
“I was working for them and they started laying everyone off, and I wasn’t sure when we were going to get back to work,” Joshua said. “That’s when we started the business.”
It had a hot start in June 2020, but operations paused when the two contracted COVID-19 in November. Now, back in Allen Place, they’ve offered platters of chicken and beef bulgogi and stir fry tofu.
They filter orders through their website Gogi2.com where they manage a delivery service on Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. They also sell platters at Holt’s farmers market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Gogi” stands for meat and is a part of a beloved Korean dish, bulgogi.
Their food will not taste like offerings from other Korean restaurants. Their bulgogi egg rolls contain rice and they use spices commonly found in southern style food like thyme and paprika.
They also do not look like one’s standard Korean chefs. Joshua is half-Black and half-Korean, and Yaya is Black. And they do not use or handle pork for religious reasons.
“Korean food is really the only thing that I’ve had to connect me to my Korean culture because I don’t know any of my Korean family,” Joshua said.
His wife Yaya is not Korean and when she first tried the food, she was apprehensive because she had never seen it.
Their daughter, who they declined to name, has a handle on the culture at just 12 years old. Yaya said she can speak Korean, listens to Korean music and watches Korean dramas. At one point, her daughter watched dramas with Yong.
If their restaurant sales soar, both would like to open a facility where diners sit on pillows on the ground to enjoy the food. Joshua said it’s a tradition in authentic restaurants to eat in that manner.
He hopes travel to South Korea and take notes from their street foods.
The full-scale remodel of Allen Place is expected to be complete in October, Jones said. Included in the completion will be market-rate and affordable energy-efficient apartments and a grocery store.