An Incubator Kitchen

An Incubator Kitchen, thoughts

This week in forageSF- open source design, Outstanding in the Field, kickstarter reward dinners, plates made of walnut

This has been a good week. The interns we hired a few weeks ago are great, and it's been nice to have the extra help. We're finally finished getting all the info together on the kickstarter backers. It's amazing what a logistical challenge it is trying to get 1600 people to respond to a survey, then deal with the inconsistencies of what rewards are going where....wont bore you too much with the specifics, but the good news is that we'll finally be able to get stuff out to the people who deserve it! The first step in that process are the kickstarter reward dinners we're organizing for next week. Im excited about these meals. The menu is going to be a lot of fun to create, and everyone at the event will be someone who helped get Forage Kitchen started, its going to be a good couple of nights. We're creating some custom serving dishes for this meal, out of walnut scraps (the wood not the food). Everything tastes better served on wood.

In other news, we set a date for the Open Source Design night. When we invite everyone (you!) in to share your ideas of what Forage Kitchen will be. What it will look like, how it will feel, where the ovens will go. We're going to have tons of pictures up on the walls of our ideas for the space, and invite you to tell us what you think/add your own.

Something Im also really excited about for that night is the model of the space we're going to build. We're going to build a 3x3ft model, complete with everything we want to have in the space, and invite you to create your ideal space. Move the walls, change the colors, push the cafe up front, and we'll have a photographer there to document your genius.

This event is going to be potluck style, so I hope you'll come, and make sure to bring something delicious to share (food or drink).

On the kitchen front, things are moving forward. Im going to be interviewing candidates for the Operations Manager position starting the 3rd week in october, excited about meeting all the candidates, and building a solid team to run this operation. We also just hired a wonderful woman, Katy Oursler, to manage and expand our events. She is one of the folks who pioneered "Outstanding in the field", the great travelling dinner series. Its been a company that I've always really respected, the way they marry food and experience, and one that I've used in many ways as a model for my events. Its really exciting to be working with her, and to discuss ideas and philosophies of creating amazing events. She is going to be spending time creating a private events series for forageSF (so if you're interested in having a private event hosted by us, definitely get in touch), as well as expanding the classes we offer. Forage Kitchen will be with us soon, but in meantime we want to start organizing classes to give everyone a taste of what we'll have in the space. Hope you're good.



An Incubator Kitchen

This week in Forage Kitchen

Hello. This is Iso, and this is the first of a series of weekly posts I’ll be writing about what’s going on with forageSF and Forage Kitchen. It will be a running log of triumphs and failures (hopefully more the former than the latter). Building out an 8000 sq ft space is a huge endeavor. As many of you know, I organized a kickstarter a few months back to raise funds, but also to get people in the community involved in the project. When this space opens, I want people to feel like it’s their space.

I want to involve anyone who is interested in being involved all throughout the process. This blog is one step in that direction, the kickstarter is another, and another thing that Im really excited about is having the design of the space be a community effort. I want you to walk into Forage Kitchen when it opens and see your input in front of you.

The first step in that direction involves my new favorite word, “charette”. A charette is basically a design brainstorming session. Once we’ve laid down some initial ideas-to give ourselves a framework, we are going to open up the process to you. We will be organizing a few community charettes over the next few months, where we talk about our ideas, and hear all the good ones you have.

The more I talk about the project with people, the more ideas I hear, the better the project becomes. It’s exciting how much better it has become because of the input from folks, so why not formalize that process? Ill be reaching out to our email list with dates of these, so I hope you’ll come.

In other news, I’m at the point now where the foundations of Forage Kitchen are being laid. I’m interviewing architects and general contractors, trying to create the right team to make this space a reality. It’s a new and interesting process for me, learning the differences in approaches, as well as learning the jargon of design and construction. I’ve also submitted an LOI (a good piece of jargon, an LOI is a “Letter of Intent”, basically a pre-lease document that says I’m interested in the space, before a lease is discussed), and just heard back that the developer is going to be sending a response soon!

It’s a really great space, 8000 sq. ft old factory, all brick and windows and steel girders and this really amazing crane that runs the length of the space. The crane doesn’t move at the moment, but we were thinking if we could get it working that we could use it to create spaces that could be transformed within the building. Maybe during the day the crane would create an office, and then at night it would move to create an event space, possibly with some kind of moveable wall attached to it. Its fun to stand inside a space like that and imagine what it could become.

Other than lease matters, I’m working with my lawyers to develop the final terms for investors. I’ve had some great interest, so its going to be cool to formalize that process.

Im going to be interviewing interns next week, to get some more support in that area, and soon going to be interviewing for the operations manager position. Im excited to get a rockstar for that job, someone who can help us take the project to the next level.

And not to make this post too much of a list, the kickstarter rewards are another thing I’ve been focusing on. The way kickstarter works is that they don’t actually give you the address of the people who have pledged, so you have to reach out to each person to find the place to send their reward. The problem is that only about half our backers have  people responded…which puts us in a bind as far as figuring out how many of each reward we need to produce. So if you are a backer and you havn’t filled out this form, please do! Don’t you want the great shwag that you’re entitled to?

Thanks for reading, see you next week.



An Incubator Kitchen

On Designing Forage Kitchen

  Lately Ive been seeing design everywhere. From the lampposts to the sewer grates. Look and you'll see it. Everything has craftsmanship. Every peg that is round instead of square, every bench whose arms curve at just the right angle for your arms, every knife handle with just the right weight. Someone sat in a room and designed these.

This of course is not even to mention the obvious work done on the old buildings in the city. Its really amazing if you spend some time looking at them, the level of craftsmanship that goes into every detail. Randomly at the same time I heard about a podcast called 99% invisible, by a guy named Roman Mars, who explores just these kinds of issues. It's amazing, you should definitely listen to it.

I've been on this kick because we've entered into the design stage of Forage Kitchen. Its an interesting challenge, taking what is usually a back of house space (the commercial kitchen), and bringing it front of house (forward facing for the public). Not a lot of thought goes into the physical experience of being in a restaurant kitchen. Fluorescent lights, bad acoustics, hot environment, these are all things that are accepted as fact in most kitchens. They're designed as functional spaces. It's only when the dining room comes into play that designers start to think about the experience of being in a space (and honestly at a lot of restaurants I've gone to I don't think they pay much attention there either).

I want to create a space that feels intimate, but at the same time has functionality. A space that you actually want to spend time in. A space that feels like the home kitchen that people gravitate to. A hearth. A warm space. What is that space? What's the lighting like? How is the equipment arranged? I like timeless design. Large wood beams (I'm thinking about driving to VT to take down my moms falling down barn to use the wood), places that feel like they'll be around forever. Most modern design just makes me uncomfortable. It doesn't seem like it was created with the idea that actual people would inhabit the space

A large part of the users of Forage Kitchen will be non-professionals. People interested in cooking, but who havn't spent time in a commercial kitchen. The truth of the matter is that commercial kitchens are intimidating. To deal with this problem we're going to have separate kitchens for different users, but I also want to create a space where there is osmosis through these spaces. Common spaces where people can interact.

I love the idea of the Makers (non-professional members), staging (helping out) with the business users. Helping them prep, then maybe hiring them for a catering gig. How fun would that be for people, to help make the food being served at their event. Imagine a bride that spent some time in the kitchen making her wedding dinner, it would connect her so much more closely to the food that was being served.

Once we have a couple sketches done, I want to have a roundtable, where I get people who are going to use the space together to let us know what they think. Ive been thinking about the idea of open source design lately. A design that is born through many different opinions coming together. I love that idea. Open source taken into the physical world, to create something that the people involved can actually stand in. Ideas for the space? Want to be part of the discussion? Let me know. Iso

An Incubator Kitchen

Who will use Forage Kitchen?

Laura will. Laura of Sidesaddle kitchen will use Forage Kitchen. She'll use the workshop to teach her classes, the office to organize her business, and the kitchen to recipe test her vegan treats. Watch this video where Laura talks about how she started out at The Underground Market by clicking below, then pledge to our kickstarter here (only 3 days left!):

Video of Underground Market vendor Sidesaddle Kitchen

An Incubator Kitchen


   Raising Some Funds for Forage Kitchen

I'm getting really excited about our kickstarter campaign for Forage Kitchen. I think it'll be a great way to not only raise some funds to get the project rolling, but also a way to get the word out on the project. I'm trying to leave nothing to chance, I hate the idea of working so hard on getting a video done, raising some cash, and then losing it because we haven't made the full amount (the way kickstarter works is that you set a goal, and if you don't reach that goal, you don't get any of the donations you've accrued).

This project seems like it will be a popular one, but in the interest of being prepared, this is my plan of action:

1. Make a great video - We've been working for a while on making a great script for the video. One that explains what the project is, why we're doing it, who it will help (both locally and nationally), specifically what we will use the money for (very important this is included), and what I've done in the past as far as community oriented organizing.

I see this project as not only an SF creation, but something that can be used as a model for other cities that have similar needs. I think the spread of The Underground Market has shown that there is a real national movement of people producing food on a small scale, and the bottleneck is a space where they can come together to work on their businesses. We also got a great illustrator to draw some pictures of what the kitchen will be, and we're going to incorporate them into the video.

2. Make a plan - I met up with a guy named Dan Whaley who has recently raised $100K on kickstarter with a project called Hypothesis, to get some advice on the process. It was incredibly illuminating to talk to him. Before we spoke I thought we would make a video, send it out to the email list, and hope for the best. What he taught me is that you really need a coordinated plan. Who you're going to send it out to, and at what time. Most videos experience an initial burst of funding in the first few days, then level off. What he suggested is that you plan for that, and create a 3 section approach. 1. Initial blast to people who will support the project -contacts both personal and professional 2. Contact media to write stories as the project is starting to level out, for a new burst of interest mid-way through 3. A final push in the last couple days of the project, for that final support

I've begun to make a list of people/organizations that I know/think would be interested in supporting the project, and Im excited by how broad they are. Im going to reach out to a pretty diverse list of media, some that I've worked with in the past, some that I'll be cold calling, food orgs, chefs around the country, leaders of other underground markets locally and worldwide. This is really something people can get behind, and its cool to be working on a project that I can feel 100% in saying is being created for all the right reasons.

I've been talking a lot about this project recently, but this will be the first national exposure it will get. Its exciting, and actually pretty terrifying, but calming to think that we've got a lot of support behind something that will be great when its created.

Have you kickstarted? What's your experience? Tips? Things to avoid? Can you suggest organizations/individuals that you know/think would be into giving the project exposure?

Thanks Iso

An Incubator Kitchen

Basque Dinner

We got the idea for this dinner on a road trip through Nevada, which surprisingly (at least to me), has a huge Basque population. Traditionally sheep hearders, the men would often  live in Basque hotels when they were in town. These hotels survive as restaurants that still serve food in the traditional way. Basically the idea is: 1. Sit down at communal tables

2. Order your entree (usually 3 choices, often with lots of lamb)

3. They bring out the sides: Salad, Soup, Veggies, Rice, all served family style, to feast on while waiting for your main.

4. The main course arrives: By this time you're half drunk on picon punch, a really great Basque drink, and the feast continues.

5. They serve dessert (at this point you're too stuffed to think about eating more, but the picon punch helps with that, so you forge on).

One plate is all you need for the meal, everything is served family style, and everyone sits together at long tables.  It's a lot of fun, and we met a lot of really cool people on our trip. We want to re-create that in SF. In partnership with Slow Food, we'll bring you communal tables, family style feast, and good drinks.

Where: 710 florida st

When: Friday and Saturday, March 30th and 31st

Tickets here: Friday, Saturday

How much: $45 gets you a full family style meal, drinks available for purchase.

and the menu is....

To Share

Peasant Soup

House Cultured Crème Fraiche, Chard Puree, Vegetable Hearts


Guanciale, wild flowers

Salt Cod Rice

Espoleta Pepper



Salad of Little Gem

Wild Flowers, Tarragon, Champ Vin

Roasted Fennel



Lamb Rosemary burnt and Braised


Clams, Squid, Octopus


Stewed Beans, Chard


Bread Pudding

Fresh Fruit

An Incubator Kitchen

Fundraising for Forage Kitchen

Forage Kitchen

We're here to announce the beginning of something really exciting.  After months of planning, we're finally ready to start working towards making our incubator kitchen a reality! The kitchen will be a space that will bolster the local food economy, while also helping to create businesses that support the community.  We're embarking on a huge push to get as many people involved as possible, with events such as Wild boar scavenger huntsGypsy Jazz pig roasts, andBasque family-style feasts.

We want the folks who are going to be using the kitchen, whether it's to take a class, start a business, or hang out in the rooftop garden, to be involved in its creation. That's why we're partnering up with all our friends around the city on a huge fundraising push for the next several months.  We'll have everything from wild boar scavenger hunts to Underground Market street parties -  tons of different events, all focused on developing a space that will support the Bay Area food community. This is very exciting new project for us, and we hope you'll join us in helping it become a reality.

The Underground Market has given many vendors a platform from which to launch their businesses. It offered a place to get their food in front of thousands of people, make some money, and most importantly, get inspired to take those next steps to starting their own business. Many businesses have been sparked by the market, but what always bothered me was that we couldn't offer more support, help them with a kitchen space, help them navigate the maze of regulations and permits that starting a food business involves, but most importantly, give them a community of people doing the same thing.

One of the hardest parts of starting a small business is the fact that you are doing it alone.  To have the support of people working next to you who are doing the same thing and facing the same challenges can be an amazingly inspiring. We want to create  space for people to be inspired to create a businesses that bolster the local food system and support our local economy.  That is our mission.

This will be a space not only for professional food makers, but for the entire Bay Area food community,with different membership levels that allow people to use the kitchen from anywhere from a couple hours a month to 40 hours a week. Say you want to can 100 jars of jam, but aren't sure exactly how to do it, and can't imagine the mess in your small kitchen, we will have space for you. Along with training on professional equipment, as well as support to guide you through the process.

Don’t want to rent space but want to learn to cook, we’ll have classes. Want to learn how to butcher using professional equipment? There’s space for you too. We now have a potential space in SOMA,: a 10,000 sq.ft amazing building, with an acre rooftop that we will transform into a garden, yeilding produce for the kitchen downstairs.  We'll have workshops, classes, potlucks and parties, as well as a cafe in the front that sells incubator vendor products, in order to give vendors a easy entry point into selling. On top of all that, we’re also planning on working with local farmers and ranchers to get more of their products into the city through group buying through the kitchen.

Something like this has only one problem: it costs a lot of money to build.  We’re in the midst of talking to investors, but since this is a space for all of us, we thought it would be cool to involve all of you in the process. We’re  going to be sending out a kickstarter soon, but we also thought it’d be fun to augment this with what we do best: events.

We’re going to be organizing some amazing fundraising events over the next couple months; everything from potlucks,  city-wide scavenger hunts, movie nights with wild boar ramen, to sit down dinners.  We already have several events in the works, but if you are interested in partnering with us on a fundraiser, or have a space you’d like to donate for a night, please let us know. I’m excited to hear the ideas you have and meet more of you over the coming months.

An Incubator Kitchen

Quest for Pork: Scavenger Hunt & Wild Boar Roast

Do you want to cavort around the city on a crazy scavenger hunt, searching for a secret pig roast put on by ForageSF, all to raise funds for our incubator kitchen? OF COURSE you do! On March 24th, we are teaming up with The Go Game to create 'Quest for Pork' an epic race across the city that will show you cool hidden parts of SF, offer up cool adventures...and make you really hungry! Which is good, 'cuz the game will ultimately lead you to a top-secret pig-roasting locale where we will drink, be merry and feast on a boar!' The $50 ticket gets you a day of scavenger hunt fun and a dinner of delicious boar with all the fixin's once you reach your destination.  There will be beer to buy, along with videos of your escapades for your general embarrassment broadcast on the big screen.

Starting at 8pm we'll have a special guest, Gypsy Jazz legends Gaucho will take the party into the night.

There is also a $150 VIP ticket available, which gets you free beer and boar for the night, and a limited edition "Soy Vs. Bacon" action figure set. Hint: Bacon wins.  This ticket price also helps support our efforts in the build out of our incubator kitchen.

We'll all meet at 3pm at a location to be announced (you'll find out when you get the ticket..Hint: It's in the mission), and then we'll set you free with your team to scavenge the city for clues. If you find the secret location of the boar roast (you will, don't worry), we'll feast on boar, watch some embarrasing videos, drink, then at 8pm we'll have music by Gypsy Jazz legends Gaucho (think Django Reinhardt).

We're also partnering with Zagat on this event. They're giving out a couple of VIP tickets for folks who review a local restaurant for their new Zagat guide. Get free beer and boar for the evening : Check out details here.

What: Wild Boar Scavenger Hunt and Gypsy Jazz Party

When: Saturday, March 24th 3-11pm

Where: It's a secret (we'll send the location to ticket holders soon)....

How: Tickets

An Incubator Kitchen

An Incubator Kitchen #4: Fundraising

These blog posts are an attempt to chronicle the creation of something that is totally new to me, a large, physical, brick and mortar shared use incubator kitchen. As this process continues I'll be writing here about what stage we're at, what problems we have, and how we solved them. This is all an attempt to help along those who want to create a similar project, while at the same time letting people know where we're at in the process. Money:

The biggest problem with building a 10,000 sq ft incubator kitchen is that it costs lots of money. Money on a scale that I don't generally think in, and to get that kind of money, fundraising is in order. We've decided we're going to do this in three ways:


We are lucky to live in an area with people who have money. It's as simple as that. Silicon valley blesses us daily with filled seats at our events, lines down the block for food trucks, and soon, a great space for small businesses to help get started. So far I've been approached by a couple investors who are interested in being a part of the project, and have started working with an advisor who is big in the angel investor scene.  I've found that whenever I'm starting something new, mentors are essential. There is no point in beating your head against the wall looking info up online, when someone willing and knowledgable is a phone call away. It's amazing just how willing and interested people are in helping out, all you need to do is ask.  We are still a ways off from locking down investment, but I imagine that about 3/4 of the money will come from this avenue. Finding investors is no small feat, but we are talking to people we know first, people who they know second, and people we think might be interested third. Especially in such a food-centric town, you'd be surprised who wants to be involved. My advice for people looking for investors is to make a list of people you think might be interested and get in touch. The worst they can say is no.


We'd be stupid to ignore kickstarter. It's a great platform for people looking to create something. If you're trying to raise money for something that you think people are interested in being a part of, kickstarter is a great avenue.  The secret is a good video. Something that really draws people in, and lets them know how passionate you are about the project.  In kickstarting a business, there is some concern from the crew about projects that are not art-centric.  I've heard that most projects get approved, but pitching it as not just a business, but that you're creating something with some other value can't hurt.  Another note is never use the word "invest" in your video or anywhere in your pitch. The SEC considers what your getting through kickstarter a donation, not an investment, so they're sticklers on that point.  We are currently working on a video that I'm excited about that will hopefully be out mid January.  The rewards we're going to offer are going to be things like classes, kitchen time, boxes of goodies from vendors who are using the kitchen, etc.  I want people who invest to really see the fruit of what they're helping to create.


This project is about creating a space that people use to create something that makes them proud. Simple as that. Whether that's a jar of jam or a jam making business. We want to get this idea out to as many people as possible, while at the same time letting people be involved in a way that's more tactile than donating online. In the next several months we're going to be planning tons of events. Movie nights, dinners, potlucks, scavenger hunts, etc, and partnering with the folks we've grown relationships with over the years throughout the city. We don't want this to be a kitchen that just people who know about forageSF frequent, but folks of all stripes.

We're also interested in having part of the funding come from "community shares". Small(er) sums of money from individuals, that will buy them a small share in the business, akin to Claires. It's a small restaurant in Vermont that was started by getting $1000 investments from members of the town. In exchange they were given a certain amount of meals free when the space opened. I love this concept. That the people who want to use a space help create it.

That's all for now. Basically what I've found is that if you're trying to create something unique, you've got to be creative about where the money comes from. This business will be successful, but because it's unproven, there is no way a bank is going to give us a loan. The great thing is that instead of credit, we have an amazing wealth of folks interested in being involved, which is better I think.

We'll be sending out info about our kickstarter and our events soon. If you're interested in helping us organize an event or have an idea for one you think would be great, we'd love to hear it.

An Incubator Kitchen

An Incubator Kitchen #2: The Membership Model

In the last post, I talked about the process of formulating the idea for our kitchen, what programs we would include and why.  In this post I'm going to talk about the model we're considering for membership. When deciding on the membership model for our kitchen, we tried to address two problems:

1. Money: It’s expensive to build-out a space that serves the needs of professional food makers, and it’s expensive to operate it.  Much like the Underground Market, we want this to be a space that is accessible to as many food producers as possible, while being a sustainable business.  We are going to look for grant funding to ensure we can serve low-income producers, while we build a workable business model that serve the entire Bay Area food community.

2. Access: We didn't want this to be a place only for professional cooks.  The Underground Market has shown that there are thousands of people who want to be involved in other ways than as producers.  There is so much more to do with food than simply have a professional business focused on it.   People want to be part of this, and we’re excited about that.

To solve these two problems we came up with the membership model below.  Rather than sell hourly kitchen rental time, accessible only by professional cooks, we’ve created a new system we’re hoping resonates with the public.  Our membership will be tiered to interest for professionals and non-professionals.  If you're interested in using the kitchen 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, there is a level for you.  If you're interested in using a professional kitchen to can the tomatoes from your backyard a couple hours a month, there's a level for you.

If you're really just interested in staying involved, taking classes, coming to parties, watching movies on the rooftop, there's a level for you. In this way, we can have a lot of really interesting stuff going on, allow people who are interested in being involved a road to entry, while generating income to allow us to offer kitchen rental to beginning entrepreneurs at a reasonable rate.  The levels listed below are still up for revision, but that is the general outline of how the space will be run.  If you have any feedback on this model, please let us know. It’s not set in stone, so if there is anything you would like to see in the space when it opens, we’d definitely like to hear it. Please feel free to comment on this post, or fill out this short survey.

Community membership

• First dibs on classes, events, talks, community events, – 2 days prior to public notice the members will receive an exclusive newsletter allowing them to be the first group to access these offerings

• Allows entrance to the Underground Market (which charges a fee for entry)

Community kitchen-users

• 4 hours month of shared kitchen time included 1-2 designated days a week (Sunday and Wednesday 6-10pm – timeframes pending)

• Additional 10 hours month of kitchen rental at a reduced rate

• 10% off all classes and events

• Will also encompass above community member services

Community kitchen-devotees

• 10 hours month included

1-2 designated days a week (Sunday and Wednesday 6-10pm)

• Additional 10 hours month at a reduced rate

• 20% off classes

• All above community kitchen-users services


• Start-up/concept development/low-income program participants

• Still testing the market, making less than $500/month, or not yet generating sales

• One to two people on crew, allowed in the kitchen

• 10-25 hours a month of kitchen time

• Subsidized hourly kitchen rates

• One day a week for kitchen time (8 hours)

• Consulting services built-in through programs/grants

Start-up/concept development/moderate-income program participants

• Testing market, making less than $500/month, or not yet generating sales

• One to two people on crew in kitchen

• 10-25 hours a month

• Subsidized hourly kitchen rates

• Will use the kitchen approximately one-two days per week (8-16 days per week)

• Consulting services built-in through programs/grants

Start-up/production development

• Vetted concept, generating consistent sales

• 4 shifts per week or approximately 32 hours a week of kitchen time

• Two to four person crew per shift

• Consulting services built-in through programs/grants

Graduates/Long-term fixed

• Vetted concept, generating consistent sales and growing rapidly

• 4-6 shifts per week or approximately 40 hours a week of kitchen time

• Tenant may sign 6-24 month lease

• Cost/month fixed - 40 hours per week