For chefs, bakers or caterers who work out of their homes, making the jump to a commercial kitchen can be daunting. It can be hard to find the right space, the right equipment and the right amount of time in a kitchen. That's where the STL Foodworks incubator comes in. 

Founded by Christy and Charlie Schlafly of Ford Hotel Supply, the shared space and "culinary incubator" is designed to be an accessible and cost-effective path to scale a culinary operation to meet the demands of customers. It officially opened Sept. 30. 

"STL Foodworks helps small businesses to bridge the gap between their home kitchen and a space of their own. We're here primarily to help them scale up production," kitchen manager Kaitlynn Tretter says. "There are very few kitchens for rent in St. Louis and STL Foodworks is here to provide an affordable space for businesses that aren't at a point to build or buy a space of their own."

Before those using STL Foodworks can get started, there is an application process that requires a $50 fee and proof of a business license, ServSafe certification and insurance. After a short orientation, applicants are required to pay a refundable $300 deposit before being able to use the space. 

There are four kitchens for use at STL Foodworks, all named for explorers. The Lewis & Clark kitchen and Chouteau kitchens each offer a range with a standard oven, a convection oven, a stock pot range, a 20-quart mixer, a refrigerator and two sinks. Each kitchen has multiple work stations so that multiple producers can be working at a time. 

The Sacagawea space has all the same to offer, but is a private kitchen. The other private kitchen is the Boone kitchen, which is a baker's dream: Along with a range, standard oven, mixer and sinks, there is also a 40-gallon steam kettle for stirring whatever large batch sauces or fillings a client needs to produce. 

STL Foodworks provides the large equipment, but clients have to provide their own small wares such as bowls, utensils and specialty items. However, dry storage will be available for rent if they want to keep some things at the space. Fridge and freezer storage will also be available, as well as a co-working space in the building. 

Those who want to use the kitchens can rent on an hourly basis, or they can pay a $25 monthly membership fee to receive perks like a discounted hourly rate, a dry storage shelf and towel service (although there is a 16-hour-per-month minimum for memberships.) For non-members, renting kitchen space starts at $35 during peak hours, 7am to 7pm, and $25 during non-peak hours.

Those who want to work in the STL Foodworks spaces can start by filling out the application on the company's website

"Our goal is to support the St. Louis food community by providing a path to entry for new businesses," Tretter says. "We have such a vibrant food scene and so much talent that needs an outlet to create and grow."

STL Foodworks, 408 N. Sarah St., St. Louis, Missouri, 314.833.3423, stlfoodworks.com

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