artisan food

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


   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