Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Got Food Products to Sell? Make Them in SLU's Food Incubator

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Got Food Products to Sell? Make Them in SLU's Food Incubator

Article excerpt

Perhaps you have a killer barbecue sauce. Or maybe you make the best hummus. All your friends say you should try to sell it.

But selling food products in significant amounts requires a commercial kitchen, one that has been licensed and inspected.

That's where food incubators come in. Food incubators are fully licensed, well-equipped kitchens that can be rented out to companies that are just starting out or are too small to afford their own full- time kitchens.

The industrial kitchen in the basement of the Salus Center at St. Louis University has at least seven clients using its facilities and equipment to prepare for sale everything from salsa and tofu to fresh tortillas and dog food.

Dog food?

It's actually better than it has to be, said Steve Jenkins, who runs the kitchen. The rules for preparing pet food are less stringent than they are for human food, but "because they are in the kitchen, you have to make it fit for human consumption."

It's made with beef and lamb liver "it's good-looking meat," Jenkins said along with fresh vegetables and rice.

The dog food is made by Fresh Start, a nonprofit organization that hires homeless people to make and package the product, which is sold at farmers markets. The workers receive business skills and a $10-an-hour salary, and area pets (including animals at Stray Rescue) get high-quality, protein-rich food.

It's inexpensive to use the kitchen, too. Clients rent it for just $10 per hour.

The association with a nonprofit organization does not end with Fresh Start. Four days a week, women at Lydia's House a home for victims of domestic abuse use the kitchen to make frozen chicken pot pies. The pies are sold under the name Lydia's Ladle at several locations, including Straub's, Dierbergs and City Greens stores and at the Smokehouse Market at Annie Gunn's.

As one woman (who did not want to give her name) measured out flour, eggs, half-and-half, butter and salt) another rolled out the dough into baking sheets.

"I love making dough," said the woman with the rolling pin. "I didn't know how to make it before. Now I make it at home all the time. …

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