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Kitchen for chefs and caterers proves to be challenge

Rob Sabo

Sam Harvey is used to overcoming challenges when it comes to running the commercial kitchen that he rents to chefs and caters.

Harvey, owner of One World Kitchen at 615 Spice Island Drive, began work to launch a commercial kitchen in August 2009. It took him just under one frustrating year to open the business and during the contentious buildout of One World Kitchen Harvey says he almost walked away from the project.

After firing his original general contractor and subs over a dispute, Harvey began doubting he would ever get the business up and running.

“There was a time about seven months into it that I looked at cutting the whole deal,” he says. “It was an uphill battle, and it was costing me three times the amount of time and financing that I had planned for. But I believed in the project enough to double down, and here we are today.”

Knowing that banks would not finance a restaurant during the heart of a recession in 2009, Harvey secured private funding for the venture.

“Traditional bank loans just aren’t there for entrepreneurs,” he says.

“Had I not secured private financing none of this would be here today.”

“This is a roll of the dice,” he adds. “This is a niche market that has been proven in bigger markets.”

After nearly 18 months One World Kitchen has finally reached the break-even point and is covering all operating expenses. The business rents kitchen space by the hour to personal chefs, caterers and individuals who need to prepare large meals in a commercial setting. Caterers and personal chefs are required to use a commercial kitchen to prepare food if they aren’t working at a client’s home.

Additionally, One World Kitchen serves as a commissary for mobile food trucks, which also have to be tied to a commercial kitchen. The business provides professional-class cooking equipment and a place to prepare food; clients are responsible for bringing their own utensils and ingredients, as well as cleanup.

About 15 businesses currently use One World Kitchen. Harvey says he expects to be solidly profitable in the next few years as his clientele increases.

Dawn Tavares, owner of Cherry Bomb Catering, says One World Kitchen helped her realize her dream of running a catering company. Cherry Bomb opened in May and has steadily grown its clientele through weddings and parties.

“It made it affordable to open up my own business,” Tavares says. “It is a great atmosphere, especially when we are all in there cooking.”

One World Kitchen is housed in the spot of the former Spice Islands Deli and had a few key items in place, such as a large walk-in freezer and refrigerator and a grease intercept. Harvey had to install ovens, ranges, hoods, air handling units, dry storage racks and food prep counters. He says obtaining permitting and a certificate of occupancy from the City of Sparks proved half as difficult as financing the project and finding and installing the various units that make up a commercial kitchen.

Harvey scoured the resale market for most of the commercial kitchen equipment. The kitchen’s large double-stack convection over formerly fed servicemen at Nellis Air Force Base. A friend of Harvey’s spotted the oven on a Craigslist classified ad. Other equipment came from resellers in the Sacramento area. Even used, restaurant equipment holds its value extremely well, Harvey says.

Although initial business was slow, One World Kitchen has boosted its revenues through creative partnerships: Cherry Bomb Catering sells on-site lunches on Fridays, and St. Lawrence Pizza sells gourmet wood-fired pizza from a lunch truck on select days.

Harvey currently handles bookings on a first-served basis for the two kitchens, but he is in the process of creating a more transparent online system that shows each kitchen’s availability so clients can book a time of their choosing.