Last week about a dozen students from OSU Institute of Technology’s School of Culinary Arts took a field trip to Kitchen 66 in downtown Tulsa.
The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation started the food business incubator Kitchen 66 in 2015, and it now resides on the ground floor of the Sun Building, 907 S. Detroit Ave., in Tulsa.
Kitchen 66 offers start-up businesses commercial kitchen space, food business training and sales opportunities.
Adele Beasley is the program’s director and spoke to the Culinary students about their business goals after graduation, which included a dessert bar that serves sweet drink concoctions, an Irish tavern, a fried chicken food truck, and a Mexican wedding cake bakery.
“People like you come to Kitchen 66 with ideas. We have the resources to get them started. We have the space to get things started,” Beasley said.
Kitchen 66 offers commercial kitchen space to rent as well a more in-depth program that meets weekly for four months that covers topics more on the business side of those culinary ideas.
“How to price your items, how to brand, the legal requirements of owning your own business, the different accounting software programs,” she said. “We provide you with the toolkit. You have the recipes, and we provide you with the resources to get started.”
Kitchen 66 also offers breakfast and lunch service to the general public provided by the restaurants utilizing the kitchen space with a different restaurant providing the meals each day.
“It gives them hands-on experience working the line for a day. Learning by doing, that’s what the café allows,” Beasley said. “We want people to figure out whether owning their own restaurant or business is what they really want before they invest all their time and money.”
School of Culinary Arts Dean Gene Leiterman said one of the top goals he hears from the culinary students is they want to open their own business, so visiting Kitchen 66 and learning what it offers gives students even more options.
“This gives you a chance to try something. So many restaurants fail. Here they could try something, and if it fails, it fails with a safety net,” Leiterman said. “Instead of jumping off the deep end, this is a good option for them. If I had something like this when I started my business, it would have prepared me better.”
Deborah Potts is a culinary student who went on the Kitchen 66 tour.
“There’s a lot of opportunities if you want to start your own business,” Potts said. “It’s nice to know this is here. It definitely gave me some more confidence and more options.”
Beasley said Kitchen 66 houses a lot of diverse food businesses with an international flair. Business owners from 10 different countries utilize the program and kitchens, including Carla Meneses who owns Que Gusto.
“We moved to Tulsa from Ecuador and wanted to offer empanadas from South America because it’s something you can’t find here. It’s street food, you can take it with you,” Meneses said. “I love to cook, but it’s hard work. The food business is not easy, but I love to be in the kitchen.”
She wanted to sell her food but wanted to go through a kitchen incubator before launching something bigger.
“I was one of the first to apply at Kitchen 66. This is really the best place to start, especially for me; I had no contacts in Tulsa,” Meneses said. “You don’t want to put thousands of dollars into something and it not work out. This kind of program is perfect for startup businesses.”
Culinary student Levi Smith said he was impressed with the mission of Kitchen 66 and the variety of restaurants and businesses utilizing the program.
“It’s cool to see a community of support in an industry that can be cutthroat. I would never expect that,” Smith said. “It’s nice to know it’s an option. It takes some of the fear and anxiety out of starting your own restaurant.”
Celia Melson, a Culinary Arts instructor, said the Kitchen 66 program is a great opportunity for students to continue their culinary business education after they graduate.
“They bring in different experts along the way like marketing, branding, packaging,” Melson said. “It also gives them a chance to test the waters of their business before they invest their lives.”