As the demand for locally produced food grows in Tucson, entrepreneurs are stepping up to provide the kitchen tools.
Cook Tucson, a culinary incubator and commissary kitchen, is to open later this year in central Tucson.
It is the second such project announced in the past few months. The YWCA is constructing a community kitchen, at 243 W. 33rd St., that will have space for cooking and offer people business tips on marketing their products.
Cook Tucson, to be located at 1702 N. Stone Ave., will be a place where caterers or food-truck owners can access commercial kitchen space and experiment with new food concepts, said founder and owner Corinne Tso.
“I know some caterers who are borrowing time at a friend’s restaurant to cook,” she said.
Cooking has always been a hobby for Tso, but her big dream was to own her own business.
“And, this will be it,” she said.
The kitchen space will be available for rent hourly or monthly and will feature convection ovens, ranges, fryers, grills, walk-in refrigerator and freezers.
One future tenant is eager for the doors to open.
Sue Ann Hockman owns Snowbird Pasties, an online retailer of the meat and vegetable pastry pockets.
“I met Corinne at a farmer’s market last summer; we were both looking for the same thing,” she said. “I am excited to support her and I can’t wait to get started.”
Hockman says she has one cafe signed up to sell her pasties. She also sells them on a corner near Tucson Estates on Saturdays, and she delivers.
“Right now I cook out of my kitchen as I wait for Cook Tucson to open up,” she said.
Anticipating a growth in business, Hockman said she plans to rent space by the month.
New business owner Anthony Ooka is getting ready to roll his food truck, Hungry Kepuha, next month, featuring Guam cuisine.
He learned about Cook Kitchen through the Small Business Development Center, where he was getting advice on starting his business.
“I look forward to being a part of something from the beginning,” Ooka said. “I think getting in early to help support a new business is exciting.”
He plans to rent commissary space monthly to store his food-truck goods.
That’s the sort of small businesses Tso wants to help with her new business in Tucson, which in 2015 received the UNESCO designation as a City of Gastronomy.
Tucson and Ensenada, Mexico, are the only cities in North America that boast the designation.
Tso said Tucson is a little behind in the trend of offering community kitchens for food entrepreneurs.
“It’s more economical than opening your own business,” she said.
Other eatery concepts growing in popularity around town include food-court style restaurants that have several small restaurant concepts under the same roof with common dining areas.
Cook Tucson is undergoing a major remodel, and Tso hasn’t yet calculated a rental rate.
Along with the cooking space, the hub will have a studio kitchen for cooking classes, demonstrations and tastings. A small retail space in the front of the shop will feature items from the different restaurants for sale.
Tso hopes to be open this summer.
Visit cooktucson.com for more information or to sign up for updates.