The Carmel Farmers Market’s Salsa Queen already is preparing for opening day, but this year Barbara Carter has the luxury of slicing and dicing in her own commercial kitchen.
Carter and her daughter, fellow market vendor Stephanie Lewis of Walking Waffle Co. fame, this month opened Carmel’s Kitchen, health-department-approved cooking space available for rent.
The 1,000-square-foot facility at 1025 W. Main St. is accessible 24 hours a day, thanks to a keyless entry system and video surveillance. It’s also fully equipped, right down to secure storage for clients’ supplies and products.
Carter came up with a wish list based on her experience renting space in other commercial facilities, including restaurant kitchens. Being a culinary nomad is challenging, she said.
So husband Ron—a member of the Carmel City Council and president of the Carmel Farmers Market—wrote a business plan and started haunting restaurant equipment auctions. Public health officials signed off on the space in mid-April.
Kitchen rentals range from $16 to $25 an hour, with an eight-hour minimum each month. Dry, cool and frozen storage is available for an additional monthly fee.
Advice from the Salsa Queen is free.
“A lot of people have no idea that they have to use a licensed kitchen [to sell food to the public], or that they have to be inspected,” she said.
Carter is encouraged by the success of Indy’s Kitchen, a similar facility in Indianapolis that has drawn food truck operators and dozens of other food entrepreneurs seeking space.
Carmel’s Kitchen hopes to land about 25 renters each month to cover expenses and begin to recoup the partners’ $50,000 startup investment. Then there’s the edible payoff.
“I told my grandson, we could probably bake 100 chocolate chip cookies at one time in that thing,” Ron Carter said, chuckling as he gestured to the kitchen's double convection oven.