By Steve Hubrecht

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Something may soon be cooking in the kitchen of the Columbia Valley Centre (CVC). Just what is that something? Budding, would-be culinary entrepreneurs keen to see if their ideas for food businesses have what it takes to go beyond the level of home cooking.

The idea to use the CVC kitchen for just such purposes was proposed by Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Pete Bourke and Alpenglow Superfood Bakery co-owner Adrian Johnson during last week’s Invermere committee of the whole meeting.

Bourke explained to the Pioneer that a lot of work has been done in the past to create a small commercial kitchen in the valley that would function as a culinary business incubator and food hub. 

The main stumbling block was that creating such a facility, even on a modest incubator-type scale, is far from easy and comes with substantial costs. 

Although the CVC kitchen is smaller than most commercial kitchens, and may only be available at odd or off-peak hours, it still could function as a testing ground of sorts for residents with aspirations of taking a gastronomic aptitude and turning it into a business. Creating a food business is expensive, and renting space in a commercial kitchen is a big part of that. 

Those who are daunted by these initial costs could use the CVC kitchen to churn out a limited amount of their culinary product, then see how it is received by the public, at local farmers’ markets, for instance, before committing to anything on a larger scale. 

In other words, the CVC kitchen would be a chance to take some baby steps before taking the first big step.

“The idea is for the incubator stage, and the hope is we can help them (would-be entrepreneurs) grow,” said Bourke.

The committee meeting was “the start of a dialogue about how that might work”, he said.

According to Bourke and Johnson, if the plan to use the CVC kitchen as a food business incubator is to succeed, some additional equipment (mostly fridges and freezers) would be needed, and the existing equipment might need to be moved. 

Aside from owning Alpenglow, Johnson also creates home and business design plans for a living. He created some design concept plans to show what the tweaked CVC kitchen might look like, and shared them with Invermere council members, who expressed enthusiasm for the plan.

“We’re very open to the idea,” said Invermere Mayor Al Miller. “It’s a good use of space. If there was an event booked at the centre that needed the kitchen, obviously that would take precedence, but right now that kitchen just does not get used very much at all.”

Invermere councillor Gerry Taft said a key part of any arrangement to use the CVC kitchen would be having a nonprofit entity step in to oversee the management and booking of the kitchen among would-be entrepreneurs. 

Taft noted that district staff simply don’t have any extra capacity to take on the logistics associated with the kitchen.