Empowering Immigrants to Launch Culinary Careers
SOMERVILLE – The Somerville Arts Council, in partnership with Kitchen Inc. (a culinary incubator in Union Square) and the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, has launched the Nibble Entrepreneurship Program (NEP), an 8-week workshop and mentoring program designed to educate and empower immigrants interested in launching culinary careers while strengthening the city’s existing reputation as a hot and diverse food destination.
Built upon the Somerville Art Council’s “Nibble” cultural economic development work, which includes ethnic market tours, pop-up restaurants, cooking classes and numerous culinary-cultural events, the pilot NEP program launched this month with 8 participants who hail from Brazil, Somalia, India, and Columbia, among other countries. Experts from local food businesses including Taza Chocolate and Machu Picchu, as well as organizations like Accion and various city departments, will advise our participants on subjects including: selecting menus, food sourcing, business planning, marketing, licensing/permitting, and financing while having 1-on-1 mentorship from City and Kitchen Inc. staff, and successful immigrant food entrepreneurs. By the end of the program, participants will develop and implement final projects, ranging from pop-up restaurants and storefronts to creating a small product line or vending at a city festival. This hands-on experience will offer a steppingstone toward long-range aspirations while offering the public rich, multicultural programming.
“Somerville has become a regional food destination, and our immigrant community is huge part of why we’re increasingly becoming known for our eclectic cuisine,” says Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “We have residents from all over the world who create authentic cultural experiences through food, which is a boon to diners —and a boon to our local economy. We want to create pipelines for more immigrants to enter the local food landscape.”
While many culinary entrepreneurs hope to start their own restaurant, one of NEP is to share opportunities in the food sector that are less expensive and risky (the majority of restaurants fail within the first year). Some of these alternatives include catering, retail, and temporary businesses, including pop-up restaurants, street vending and farmer’s markets. Many of these alternatives could involve utilizing the services at Kitchen Inc, a non-profit culinary incubator that helps food businesses grow, including Union Square Donuts, which recently graduated from the shared kitchen space at Kitchen Inc to their retail location. A long-term goal of the Arts Council, Kitchen Inc. and the NEP team is to launch a café at ArtFarm, with a rotating cadre of immigrant cooks who graduate from the NEP program.
“In the true entrepreneurial spirit of Somerville, Kitchen Inc. is thrilled to be partnering with the Somerville Arts Council with this unique opportunity to encourage and educate new culinary entrepreneurs,” says Kitchen Inc. general manager Ciaran Naigle. “Finding adequate retail space is incredibly difficult around metro Boston. We want to teach our participants about alternative tracks to enter the food business that may better match with long-term goals and provide more opportunities to experiment and create unique experiences for the consumer.”
Beyond Kitchen Inc. and the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, The Somerville Arts Council’s NEP program has numerous partners including the city’s SomerViva/Communications department, the city’s Inspectional Services Division, The Welcome Project/LIPS, Accion, Taza Chocolate, Spindler Confections, Machu Picchu, and Casa B.
For more information, please contact Rachel Strutt at Rachel@somervilleartscouncil.org or at 617-625-6600 x 2985 or visit www.somervilleartscouncil.org.