achel DesRochers knows a little something about being in the kitchen. In 2010 she started vegan graham cracker company Grateful Grahams out of her home kitchen as an example to her then-infant daughter that anything is possible with the right mindset. Within three years she had outgrown the space and started the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen in Covington, a sharable commercial kitchen that allows small edible-goods producers to rent out the space by the hour. Grateful Grahams uses half the space for production and offices.
An “incubator kitchen,” a concept that has grown in popularity in recent years, offers space for those who have outgrown their home kitchens. Another just opened in Findlay Market.
DesRochers is expanding on the concept with The Hatchery, her “start-up space for beginner eats businesses,” at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newport.The impetus for launching Grateful Grahams came after DesRochers lost her marketing job of seven years at a national company during the dark days of The Great Recession.
“The best thing ever was when I lost my job,” she says.
Six years after DesRochers called her husband with the idea for the graham cracker company, she has a fruitful business and two kitchens, with the Hatchery promising great things.
Although the Hatchery has been operating since Feb. 1, it wasn’t unveiled to the public until an April 3 open house. Located in St. Paul’s food pantry, the church realized last year that it wasn’t taking full advantage of the space, and DesRochers’ name came up during a meeting. Now the church is renting the space to more than eight small businesses.The food pantry’s 1,000-square-foot kitchen is a bit smaller than the 7,000-square-foot Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen in Covington, but, as DesRochers puts it, it’s much less intimidating, and a better size for those just starting out.
“I just knew when I stepped inside, that this was the place to hatch ideas,” she says.
Some of those ideas include Firecracker Bakery, a small-batch bakery for cookies and cakes, and Grass Fed Gourmet, a nutrient-dense, multi-use spread. Although Grateful Grahams is vegan — a tribute to DesRochers’ father, who had to change his diet after being diagnosed with cancer in 2009 — DesRochers is a vegetarian (not vegan), and that creed doesn’t necessarily extend to the occupants of her two kitchens; there’s no vegan or vegetarian requirement for interested parties.
One of the main goals is to make renting space and producing commercially sellable food as cost efficient as possible for these businesses. Some will be in The Hatchery for as many as 40 to 60 hours a week, although the requirement is only a minimum of 8 hours per week. “I’m in business to help people be successful,” DesRochers says. “I believe in these people because I see a passion in them I haven’t seen in other entrepreneurs.”
DesRochers’ passion is what leads her to keep expanding and offering new and better community opportunities for what she calls “foodpreneurs,” or food entrepreneurs.
Along with the Hatchery, DesRochers also just launched Kitchen Convos, a local podcast for the modern foodie featuring intimate conversations with food and beverage business owners in the Greater Cincinnati area. The episodes feature conversations in the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen with growers, manufacturers, chefs and other members of the local food community, recorded in front of a live audience on the second Wednesday of each month. (The tapings are open to the public; there’s a $5 admission fee, and the conversation always starts at 6:30 p.m.) On June 8, Suzy DeYoung, founder and operator of La Soupe, Mike Florea, chef and owner of Maribelle’s eat + drink, and another to-be-announced guest will be sharing their stories.
The full dialogues, plus mini on-the-road, one-on-one interviews with the likes of chef Anthony Lamas of Louisville’s Seviche and Bourbon Barrel Foods owner Matt Jamie, are available on iTunes.
Kitchen Convos is an extension of DesRochers’ goal to educate, and she considers herself a mentor to any businesses operating out of her kitchens.
“I sit with them when they’re ready to quit,” she says. “I share what I know, and I share contacts.” That means helping build relationships with local growers and manufacturers, even Kitchen Convos guests.If DesRochers seems busy, she takes it in stride. “I have all the time in the world for what I believe in,” she says. “When your hands are full, all of the sudden people ask how they can help.”
As for future plans, DesRochers has a monthly workshop in mind that will meet the fourth Wednesday of every month. The goal is to teach classes on starting and maintaining a business so she can spread her success around. Because, as the name of her graham cracker company would suggest, she’s very grateful for all of her accomplishments, big and small.
“Gratitude is a spiritual practice, and food is grace,” she says.
To learn more about THE HATCHERY, visit nkyik.com.