Spork Kitchens started as an answer to two problems that owners Sandy Sauter and Brad Gates kept noticing: a lack of diversity in the Napa food scene and a lack of available commissary kitchen space.
The pair first noticed a lack of diversity in the Napa food scene, both in terms of the types of food available and the types of people preparing them. After teaching at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for 10 years, Sandy observed many talented young people who graduated and were not able to get their food concepts established. The pair concluded that this was partially due to a lack of available commissary kitchen space in the Napa area.
A commissary kitchen is a commercial kitchen space that is available to rent, and they are a crucial rung in the food business ladder. Commercial kitchen space allows food entrepreneurs the opportunity to expand from a home-based Cottage Food Operation while still offering a means to prepare and sell food that’s less costly than opening a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant. Brad, with his background in Finance and IT, and Sandy, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, felt they had the perfect combination of skill sets to create new opportunities for food entrepreneurs and help solve some of the problems they were seeing—and in 2019, Spork Kitchens opened its doors.
Their vision was simple: to create an unofficial incubator for food entrepreneurs that would provide everything they needed so that they could focus on their business. To that end, Spork takes care of all maintenance, janitorial services, refrigeration, toilet-scrubbing, lightbulb-changing, and everything in between. All of this is provided to their members, along with 24/7 access to the space for pickups, dropoffs, to wash dishes or whatever they may need, at a flat rate with no add-on fees. Their unofficial tagline is, “We take care of the kitchen, so you can take care of your business.”
But Brad and Sandy have found themselves taking care of more than just the kitchen over the years, with Brad becoming an unofficial expert on City, State and County requirements for food vendors and Sandy offering menu planning and preparation streamlining tips to their members. Though they keep busy, it is important to the pair that their members have access to them as a resource.
“One of us is in the building every day,” says Sandy. “We are happy to work with our members because we understand that this is a hard business, and we want them to know that we are here to support them.”
The couple love to see the collaboration between businesses in their shared space, from seeing one member bake crackers for another member’s catering boards to the sharing of staff to provide full-time hours for support workers. Eventually, some members move on to their own space and open a brick-and-mortar business of their own. Sandy and Brad celebrate with them.
To learn more about Spork Kitchens, visit sporkkitchens.com, find them in person at 1758 Industrial Way Suites 106 & 107 or email [email protected].