There are incubators for tech startups and incubators for socially minded ventures, but when it comes to helping would-be restaurateurs or food artisans, resources can be hard to find. This is why Roy Allen, founder of online food group the Artisan Food Guild, has teamed up with Classic Cooking Academy in Scottsdale to launch the Arizona Culinary and Wine Center, a "dedicated space for food and drink research and innovation."
You've probably already heard about Classic Cooking Academy, the state's only nonprofit culinary school headed up by Chef Pascal Dionot. And if you haven't heard of the Artisan Food Guild, know it's an online-based food group Allen started two years ago as a hobby. Today, the group includes more than 250 members who meet for social, educational, and business-related events.
Allen says the idea for the Arizona Culinary and Wine Center came out of the guild's need for an educational partner, a place where he could bring information about Arizona food and drink communities together in one place.
"There's a lot of information out there," Allen says. "But it's fragmented. You could put 100 miles on your car trying to see it all."
So the center -- the brick-and-mortar component of which will be located at the culinary school -- will offer a retail store with made-in-Arizona food and drink products, a commercial kitchen for startup food ventures to rent, a community kitchen, and a business incubator to help small business owners get help and advice. He also says they will offer education opportunities and a place where tourists can come experience Arizona's culinary scene in one central place. Think food, wine, and Arizona-made spirit tastings.
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"So it's a great cultural tourism project," Allen says.
Sure, it seems like a pretty ambitious project, but the idea of food and drink incubators is gaining popularity around the country. In cities such as Washington, Oakland, and New York, food and drink small-business owners seek help from groups like The Community Builders, a Detroit incubator that connects food producers with underutilized kitchen space in the city. And wouldn't it be nice to have something like that in Phoenix?
To get involved with the Arizona Culinary and Wine Center, you can visit the Artisan Food Guild website. Allen says he and Didot are looking for community partners with whom they can collaborate on upcoming events, dinners, and other projects for the center. The Artisan Food Guild is free to join.